Author’s note: this is the first in a multi-part series following the 2-108th Cavalry Squadron of the Louisiana National Guard as the unit prepares for its rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), at Fort Polk, LA. Each piece will tell a different part of the unit’s story, and give readers a glimpse into how National Guard units prepare for war.

It’s a halfway pleasant day — one of the first in Shreveport, Louisiana, since the end of Spring — and about 200 National Guard soldiers of the 2-108th Cavalry Squadron*, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) are assembled at Fort Humbug, on the city’s east side. It’s drill weekend, and the soldiers are completing administrative business — the bureaucracy that defines government work. Equipment checks, medical exams, physical fitness tests, awards, promotions, retention interviews, unit planning, and various other mundane (yet vital) tasks are the weekend’s primary objectives.

This is the Squadron’s last chance in 2018 to complete these types of tasks, as the rest of the drill weekends will be devoted to weapons qualifications and other combat training. The 2-108th, along with the rest of the 256th IBCT, is gearing up for their rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) in Fort Polk, Louisiana. At JRTC, the brigade will take part in a simulated deployment, complete with a highly skilled and motivated opposition force played by active-duty Regular Army soldiers. Short of an actual wartime deployment, JRTC is as real and as stressful as it gets.

The 256th’s insignia

It will be the brigade’s final test before 2020 when they are available for deployment. Although no one knows where the unit will go for sure, many speculate an overseas training opportunity; however, that can change at a moment’s notice depending on the current threat picture.