Stryker Brigade returns home from special training

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Aug 24, 2018 6:48 PM

Photo By Cpl. Hannah Baker | Soldiers of the 1-108th Field Artillery Regiment, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard fire an M777 Howitzer during a live-fire training exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, Aug. 13. (US Army National Guard photo by Cpl. Hannah Baker/released)

(Harrisburg) -- A Pennsylvania National Guard unit is returning home from a simulated war zone at Fort Irwin, California.

The 5,000 soldiers of the 56th Stryker Brigade spent the last few weeks engaged in combat exercises with the permanent unit based at the National Training Center, an area in the Mohave Desert roughly the size of Rhode Island.

The soldiers were tested in over 100 degree heat enforcing perimeters, establishing communications systems and using all their available weapons, from rifles to attack aviation.

Brigade operations officer Major David Fittipoldi deployed with the brigade to Iraq nearly a decade ago. But he said this training has been one of most humbling experiences of his career.

"You know, at times I felt, when am I going to be fired? And then six hours later you feel a sense of confidence that I've never felt in my 15 years of military service," Fittipoldi said. 

Fittipoldi said for new soldiers who have not deployed, this could be the pinnacle of their careers so far.

"Absolutely no one wants to fight a war like this one with a near pure adversary, absolutely not. But to have the ability to train in this environment, under these conditions--it's a great opportunity, it's a wonderful opportunity to prepare for it," he said.

This is the first time the entire brigade has participated in this type of training, designed to build combat power for the known and unknown needs of the U.S. military.

Fittipoldi said the National Training Center conducts about ten trainings each year. Only two of those are for National Guard units.

The Stryker Brigade is not currently scheduled for a deployment.

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