In peacetime, Signal Corps soldiers from Fort Gordon were able to focus on setting up and maintaining communications equipment.
Advanced weapons training wasn't a high priority.
All that has changed since the war in Iraq began, said Capt. Eddie Byrd, the commander of Company C, 551st Signal Battalion. Byrd is the officer in charge of Capstone, a one-week course that all students at Fort Gordon must take.
"We wanted to come up with a training focused on validation and tactics," the captain said.
Using Fort Gordon's 73rd Ordnance Battalion training as a model, officers with the 15th Signal Brigade, of which the 551st is a part, came up with additional training for students going through Advanced Individual Training.
Since it began in April, more than 1,300 soldiers have received Capstone training, Byrd said.
Though it is not the only part of the training program, one of its main focuses is weapons qualification.
Students spend several days firing their M-16s, Byrd said. Along with training on the firing range, Captsone incorporates a convoy exercise in which soldiers fire from trucks.
The final part of the exercise is a mock ambush during a patrol, which could include taking sniper fire or being the target of an improvised explosive device.
"They've got to know how to react to battle drills," yrd said.
Many of the soldiers who graduate from the Capstone course head back to their regular Army units. Others are part of the National Guard or Army Reserves.
Byrd said many of the instructors in the advanced weapons training program have received e-mails from soldiers who used what they learned at Capstone within weeks of graduating.
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