Train like You Fight: Actors and Lasers


Categorie: Bryan William Jones, Train like You Fight, Training |

To prepare for the rigors of combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, East Africa and other conflict zones, the U.S. Special Forces visit the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, for several weeks of hyper-realistic training. Bryan William Jones paid a visit to see the training first-hand.



I was completely unprepared for the chest thumping BOOM! that came from up the road, next to the 3rd Special Forces Group convoy moving through Medina Wasl, the simulated Iraqi town at National Training Center. The falling debris and rising dust cloud were substantial. AK-47s chattered from nearby windows. As the U.S. soldiers established positions and returned fire with their M-4 carbines and mounted M-240 machine guns, the smell of gunpowder wafted through the air. Confusion reigned. My minders, Captain David Durante and Staff Sergeant Dennis Corey, provided a running commentary.

For this urban exercise, all the rounds being fired were blanks, but the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System — mil-grade laser tag — tracked virtual bullets. Observer-controllers were on the ground to assess the performance of participants and provide real-time feedback on the scenario. The participants knew it wasn’t real, but you wouldn’t have known it from the expressions on their faces.

Medina Wasl is one of approximately 15 simulated towns and villages built in the middle of a 1,000-square-mile patch of California desert near Death Valley. Each town is populated by actors portraying villagers and townsfolk with their own politics, loyalties, histories, grudges and goals. They have jobs, titles, family memberships and religious beliefs appropriate for the scenarios. Some individuals may play the role of insurgent financiers, some are bomb-makers, others are insurgent foot soldiers. Some individuals are just trying to live out their lives keeping shop or providing services.

There are also two mock television stations that mimic CNN and Al Jazeera, to provide training in media interaction. Social issues come into play. There are door-to-door operations, political negotiations with local mayors in addition to the “international media” roaming the battlefield.

Next up, the “god gun.”

(Photo: Bryan William Jones)

Train like Your Fight: Ambushed!


3 Responses to “Train like You Fight: Actors and Lasers”

  1. [...] The 3rd Special Forces Group were at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, preparing for a deployment to an undisclosed location. With its fine dust, low- and high-altitude desert, unrestricted airspace and relative isolation, NTC can simulate both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Center was founded back in 1980, with the goal of providing opposing force training initially consisting of troops emulating armored Soviet-style forces. In recent years the “enemy” has evolved to focus the training on low-intensity and counter-insurgency operations. [...]

  2. [...] forces battle away from spotlight War Is Boring: Train Like You Fight: Ambushed! War Is Boring: Train Like You Fight: Actors and Lasers. War Is Boring: Train Like You Fight: The “god-gun”. War Is Boring: Train Like You [...]

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