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Training location helps unit prepare for Afghanistan

UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters fly over after dropping off Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters fly over after dropping off Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter takes off after dropping off Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter takes off after dropping off Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Army Staff Sgt. Brian Knowles, left, and Spc. Brian Livingston discuss the direction of travel after being dropped off by a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. Knowles and Livingston are part of 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Army Staff Sgt. Brian Knowles, left, and Spc. Brian Livingston discuss the direction of travel after being dropped off by a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. Knowles and Livingston are part of 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment provide security during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment provide security during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment survey the area while during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment survey the area while during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Spc. Levi Gilbert checks on the location of an adjacent unit during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. Soldiers from the 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Spc. Levi Gilbert checks on the location of an adjacent unit during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. Soldiers from the 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Spc. Christopher Sheppard moves up a mountain during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Spc. Christopher Sheppard moves up a mountain during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters land to pick up Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters land to pick up Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment load a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

Soldiers from 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment load a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter during a training mission near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Sept. 13. The mission consisted of an air assault, security operations and setting up observation posts. The Soldiers are training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)(Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Soldiers from A Troop, 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Calvary Regiment, skirted through the mountains looking for enemy activity.

Their mission was to infiltrate and then conduct a dismounted movement through the hills for approximately 5,200 meters to establish a series of observation posts. From there, they observed the areas of interest and the known enemy's routes.

This realistic training was just one of many training scenarios this unit has completed in preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan later this year.

"Today is almost like a capstone exercise to put together everything we have learned in the last 18-months," said Army 1st Lt. Alex Oliver, 1st platoon leader for A/1-40th. "We also just returned from a very successful training at Joint Readiness Training Center, (Fort Polk, La.)"

The unit also completed a platoon certification where they were certified as mission capable.

The 1-40th Calvary Regiment is part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

"We are conducting this air assault mission to establish a screen line in Snow Hawk Valley," Oliver said. "Reconnaissance is one of the squadron's main tasks, and we expect to do a lot of it during our upcoming deployment."

The Soldiers moved through the mountains like a well-oiled machine. The cold, rain and wind seemed to have no effect.

They set up an observation post near the top of a mountain overlooking the valley floor. The Soldiers took turns providing security. There was enough time before the extraction for lunch and a quick sock change.

Spc. Brian Livingston of A Troop said he knows how important this training is. With one 12-month Afghanistan deployment under his belt, he can relate his training to his deployed experiences.

"The reason why this training is good for us is because we do this kind of thing daily to weekly in Afghanistan: air assaulting into a location, setting up observation posts and denying anti-coalition forces the ability to spread their message," he explained. "Keeping them where we want them, not where they can do harm to civilians or us."

Livingston also noted the mountainous terrain in an Alaskan summer is very similar to the terrain in Afghanistan.

"We try to get to this training area at least once a month to at least road march or run," Oliver said. "There is nothing like getting up in the mountains here in Alaska. It is a great venue for training."

For those in the unit who haven't deployed, the training shed light on what is expected in Afghanistan.

"I expect there will be a lot of mountains. From what the guys who have already deployed have told me, this is a good area to train because of the high mountains and altitude," said Pfc. Andrew Buczkowski. "I expect to do a lot of walking."

Buczkowski said he is obviously nervous about the deployment because there are so many things that could happen, but is excited about doing his duty for his country and he knows this training will help him come back alive.

Oliver echoed Buczkowski's sentiment's concerning the unit's readiness for combat.

"This platoon is stronger than it has ever been and I have the utmost confidence that they are prepared for this deployment," he said.

The Soldiers have been out for more than six hours in the cold and rain, each person carrying more than 50-pounds on his back. They board a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and return to base.

"I enjoy doing this. My feet hurt but at the end of the day there is a satisfaction that comes from doing this," Livingston said. "I really have no complaints, no gripes...but for my feet."