Vermont Guard readies for massive training in Louisiana

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) It was hard not to notice the massive amount of military vehicles rolling into Burlington. But they won't be here long. They're on the move for a big out-of-state mission.

"Everybody's in good spirits. They volunteered for this, so we know what was coming," said Sgt. Mike McGurl, one of the nearly 1,000 Vermont troops headed in late April for the Super Bowl of National Guard training. The group will spend about a month at Fort Polk, Louisiana preparing for a possible deployment. "It's a good training. It a difficult training."

It's called the Joint Readiness Training Center Rotation. Along with soldiers and equipment, some
600 military vehicles arrived at the Burlington waterfront to be loaded on to rail cars and shipped to the mock-deployment location ahead of the troops' arrival.

"It's a historic event," said Maj. Zachariah Fike. He says they'll join 4,000 other soldiers from 18 states. "It's a huge ordeal for the Vermont Army National Guard. We haven't done an operation in this size in over 15 years."

There's no immediate word of a massive call up as there was in 2010 when 1,500 Vermont Guard members deployed to Afghanistan. But this training is for the "just in case." "Every job within the unit is tested to their abilities," Fike said.

That means little sleep, little food and a simulated war zone. "Soldiers go through a lot. They've been working day in and day out, they're tired, but they're hungry. They're hungry to succeed and we have no doubt they'll get the job done," Fike said.

"It gets you ready for deployment if we need it," Sgt. McGurl said.

The weather made it tough to load the equipment on to the rail cars Monday, putting them a little behind schedule. We're told flooding also delayed some trains in Southern Vermont.