FORT POLK, La. — About 4,500 National Guard soldiers from North Carolina will soon take the place of other troops in Iraq.
They have spent the last two weeks in intense urban warfare training at Fort Polk, where some Iraqi refugees are preparing them for what is ahead.
Mock Iraqi towns are an important part of training at Fort Polk, where North Carolina National Guard soldiers are learning to communicate.
Many of the Iraqi civilians the troops will encounter on training missions are just other soldiers playing the parts. There are also some true Iraqis here.
Mudir Sahib is from Baghdad. His father was a general in the Iraqi Army who fled the country in 1982.
"The regime, Saddam's regime, was threatening us all the time," Sahib said. The regime called his father a traitor and took it out on his family.
"It was so bad," he said. "I couldn't go to college. I finished high school, but I couldn't go to college because I had to be in the Baath party, which I don't want. They have to force you to be in the Baath party."
He escaped from Iraq nearly eight years ago. With help from the United Nations, he ended up at Fort Polk, teaching soldiers Arabic and about life in Iraq.
"We're trying to direct the Army to the right way of what they're doing and make sure they're not going to make any mistakes there that could cost the lives of the civilians and the Army," he said.
"It's good to work with them," said Sgt. Fletcher Sargent of Raleigh. "We learn how to talk and how to react and how to use the interpreter, which is an important skill to learn."
"We're getting hands-on experience of what the people are like, their culture, and what's to be expected," said Spc. Mitch McClain of Morrisville.
With much of his family still living in Iraq, Sahib also has a personal interest in seeing American troops succeed.
"What I'm hoping is to see Iraq as secure so I can go back and visit," Sahib said.
Sahib believes by getting the soldiers on the right path, he is helping make both country's safer.
The National Guard soldiers who make up the 30th Brigade Combat team are expected to deploy in late February.