Fort Carson's 1st Brigade Combat Team trained in the snow last week.
While that may seem mundane, the muddy soldiers and the mortar fire are part of something new — troops who stay ready for combat and remain on call for battle anywhere in the world.
"After this, they are ready to go," said Lt. Ted Scott as he watched his platoon prepare to fire on Fort Carson training range last week.
For a decade an a half, Fort Carson soldiers have trained on a schedule dictated by the demands of Iraq and Afghanistan. Troops prepared for war, deployed and came home for months of relaxation before they would train again.
Post-war strategy propelled by rising Russian threats has changed that. Army leaders are pushing for troops who are "expeditionary" — a term they use to describe preparedness for unexpected combat across the globe.
"We have to be prepared to be deployed anywhere in the world in five days," explained brigade spokesman Kevin Boyd.
Fort Carson's 1st Brigade wins the Three Bears test of modern combat.
Light infantry forces can be moved around the globe quickly, but lack the firepower to thwart a well-armed foe. Tanks can tackle any threat, but it takes weeks to haul the 72-ton behemoths to distant battlefields.
The Fort Carson unit is equipped with eight-wheeled 18-ton Stryker vehicles. They bring more firepower than ground- pounding infantry and parachute units. But they can also be flown to battle, with two Strykers fitting neatly into a C-17 Globemaster transport.
The brigade is drilling with the Air Force to hone its rapid-deployment skills, and a few Strykers and the troops to man them are kept at the Army's terminal near Colorado Springs Airport.
Driving all the training and the need to rapidly fly to battle is the rising threat of Russia, which is countered by a seriously diminished U.S. presence.
At the height of the Cold War, the Army had 280,000 combat troops in Europe. Now the service has one airborne brigade in Italy and a lone cavalry regiment in Germany — that's about 10,000 American soldiers to counter 2.7 million active and reserve Russian troops.
That means to deter Russian aggressions, as seen in Ukraine, the U.S. needs troops who can get to war in a hurry.
At Fort Carson, 1st Brigade troops said they're happy with the globe-spanning mission, despite the tough odds that would come if war erupted with Russia.
"Anytime we get to do our job and sling rounds downrange, we're happy," explained Staff Sgt. Adrian Cortez.
Scott said leaders have also worked to make sure soldiers get a break from training and time to spend with their families.
On a snowy morning, ankle-deep in mud, Scott's soldiers were looking for targets for their 120 mm mortars and thinking of future foes.
"This is the type of stuff we like to do," he said.