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Live fire training with the Green Mountain Boys

June 16, 2017 GMT

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -

On Thursday, WCAX News traveled with some state leaders to see how they prepare for the battlefield. It’s an inside look at the Vermont National Guard’s front line training.

“They’re not out there for two weeks of vacation. They’re out there training hard and they’re long days,” said Rep. Clem Bissonnette, D-Winooski.

Legislators and Guard leaders hopped in three Blackhawk helicopters to see the training firsthand.

Over 2,000 Army guardsmen from around New England travel to New York for the annual training. Some are here for just two weeks while others are here for four weeks.

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Most of the soldiers at the massive mountainside military reservation work in full-time other jobs. But at Fort Drum, and in uniform, they get to put the specialties they train for to the test in both day and night exercises.

“If the nation calls upon us to serve in a time of war, we can be ready to do that,” said Phillip Bourne, Mortar Platoon.

Guardsmen prepare using things as simple as Lincoln Logs to quickly plan and execute mock engaged combat missions.

“This is a building block approach. So this, right now as you can see, they’re working as teams against a specific target,” said Gen. Steven Cray, Vermont National Guard.

While those targets are simulated, it pushes soldiers to make tough decisions similar to real ones they’d have to make on the battlefield.

On one range, guardsmen train on Humvees topped with .50-caliber machine guns and grenade launchers.

Advanced laser technology assists them in identifying targets and their precise locations from miles away.

The Guard also showed off the interior of specially armed vehicles designed to detect and absorb forces of roadside explosives.

After a quick break for a “military-style” lunch, it was over to more live fire exercises. The platoon showed us the destructive impact of 120 mm mortars firing at targets over 4 miles away.

“Within the troop and squadron level, yes, it is. This is the most powerful and direct fire weapon that we have,” said Bourne.

Soldiers practice working quickly to always stay ahead of the enemy. One mortar system takes less than two minutes to setup.

“Ultimately, we want to inflict maximum amount of casualties on the enemy as we can,” said Bourne.

They are sacrificing time away from their families to prepare for a call to serve that could come at any time.