Washington National Guard’s 81st Brigade conducts live fire training in Yakima

Washington National Guard’s 81st Brigade conducts live fire training in Yakima
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The Washington Army National Guard’s 81st Brigade, made up of thousands of soldiers, has descended on the Yakima Training Center as it gears up for its next assignment.

“To go through this, you’re gonna be ready, it needs to be practiced, it needs to be muscle memory, you need to be just trained and ready to go,” said Zakere Gaskill. “It’s pretty draining work. You’re out here in 90 degree weather in full gear, you’re running around, it’s demanding. So, you need to practice. You need to be on top of this.”

Soldiers are going through a simulation of a combat mission against opposing forces to get ready to head to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California. Typically, a trip there means a deployment is coming. Right now, it’s looking like they’ll be heading to Poland in 2021 for a peacekeeping mission with NATO.

“There are some things that can’t be simulated,” said Major Nicholas Stuart, a battalion operations officer. “Sometimes problems take four days to manifest, you know, four or five days and so then, it gives our staff and our units more experience, more time to work through enduring operations.”

The mission would mark the 81st Brigade’s first deployment since its return from Iraq in 2009, but there’s still a lot up in the air at this point.

“The world changes rapidly, so basically our mindset is to maintain readiness and flexibility so we’re not training specifically for Poland right now, while that’s within the scope of missions we can accomplish, because we may get remissioned elsewhere,” Stuart said.

The 81st Brigade heads to the National Training Center next spring.

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