Alaska’s 4-25 Airborne Brigade Combat Team has been at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, for the last month. It’s a very different place than the Last Frontier and has been presenting the soldiers with new challenges.

The mission at JRTC is to liberate a fictional country called Atropia. It prepares the soldiers for a similar real-world mission in Afghanistan, where the 4-25 is readying to deploy.

Temperatures at Ft. Polk have been in the 90s with 100 percent humidity. Tropical Storm Cindy also hit while the soldiers were there, dumping rain on the battlefield. Another obstacle they’ve faced have been wild horses, which are unfazed by the heavy Humvees rolling through the fort.

The soldiers have been training night and day, but Lt. Col. Rick Johnson explained why the effort is worth it before the brigade left for JRTC.

“We get to fight against a world-class opposing force that does it full time. We get external evaluators, taking notes and really helping us get better,” said Johnson.

The soldiers’ JRTC rotation wraps up Saturday and they’ll start coming home next week. Members of the 4-25 are expected to deploy to Afghanistan in late summer.