Chemical weapons engulf soldiers carrying 60-pound rucksacks, their mud-filled boots trenching through a river dividing simulated enemy lines.
Troops run in the desert to acclimate to harsh conditions with winter temperatures as low as 8 degrees, summer as high as 120.
The training becomes increasingly realistic in the weeks before deployment, mirroring the topography they may endure, but not necessarily the human terrain -- the cultures they'll be dealing with. And in a foreign land, something as seemingly innocuous as a thumbs-up sign or shaking a woman's hand can land a soldier in trouble.
While physical conditioning and live-fire exercises certainly help prepare troops for deployment, they're culturally blind if they don't understand the people among whom they'll be fighting. In the 21st century, when the U.S. is at war with ideals as much as -- if not more than -- foreign armies, this blind side can be as dangerous as your M249 jamming.
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