San Joaquin Valley National Guard soldiers bound for deployment in Kosovo early next year are in the midst of three weeks of training at a hilly and hot base north of Paso Robles.
The soldiers arrived Saturday at Camp Roberts and are undertaking a mix of exercises meant to prepare them for combat.
"Morale is high," said Lt. Col. Dirk Levy, commander of the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment. "We're doing some challenging training, and the soldiers eat it up."
About 350 soldiers from four groups in the 184th are with him at Camp Roberts: the Modesto-based headquarters company, one from Oakdale, a forward support company from Fresno and part of one from Auburn.
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Members from two other companies in his battalion are scheduled to head to Camp Roberts next month for similar training. Those companies -- one based in Dublin and one from Visalia -- are expected to deploy to Iraq late this year.
Levy said the soldiers are trekking through triple-digit heat on daylong tasks. They're working with weapons, compasses and medical equipment, among other exercises.
About 75 other soldiers headed to Kosovo, meanwhile, are working on Bradley fighting vehicles at Fort Irwin, north of Barstow.
The soldiers at Camp Roberts sleep in barracks and get two hot meals a day, chowing on MREs (Meal, Ready to Eat) during the exercises.
Most of Levy's battalion deployed to Iraq in 2005, returning in January 2006. The soldiers headed to Iraq this year are scheduled to join the Southern California-based 185th Armed Regiment.
Levy said the Kosovo-bound soldiers expect another round of training in December before heading to Europe.
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.