Train like You Fight: Ambushed!

26.11.09

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.

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by BRYAN WILLIAM JONES

I had checked out.

The environment was so complete that, for a discrete moment, I had completely forgotten that we were still in the continental United States. Perhaps it was the smell of kebabs cooking or the sound of singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan playing from the electronics shop, which also sold pirated Western DVDs. Maybe it was the afternoon call to prayer coming from the tops of the minarets in the local mosque. It could have been the women selling bread, fruits or flowers by the side of the road — or the Arabic men playing backgammon in the cafe with shisha pipes. Toyota trucks or bicycles being repaired in the roadside repair shops under Iraqi flags added to the realism, as did the tangle of wires on poles carrying telephone and electricity around town. But the thing that really completed it was the sound of Baghdadi Arabic from a gentleman greeting us as we drove through town.

Even though this was a simulation — albeit a sophisticated one, where you know and acknowledge that you are not in hostile territory — there is nevertheless a certain palpable tension that grows as you proceed through town, not knowing which persons by the side of the road are civilians or insurgents looking to attack. An attack might take the form of a small-arms ambush, a sniper, a rocket-propelled grenade or the most feared assault: an Improvised Explosive Device that explodes as you pass by.

I watched a blue pick-up lurch out in front of the “Lyndon Marcus International Hotel” in the town center. A convoy of soldiers was coming through town from the other direction. Sensing a potential ambush, I set up cameras to capture the action. Still, I was completely unprepared for the chest thumping BOOM! that followed from up the road, next to the convoy. There was falling debris and a rising dust cloud. AK-47s chattered from nearby windows. As the U.S. soldiers established positions, pictured, and returned fire with their M-4 carbines and mounted M-240s, the smell of gunpowder wafted through the air.

In the next installment, the “battle” rages.

(Photo: Bryan William Jones)

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6 Responses to “Train like You Fight: Ambushed!”

  1. Prestwick says:

    Great article. The UK long had researched creating ultra realsitic training grounds in the 1960s and 70s for various scenarios but (obviously) its pretty hard to create a steaming jungle or blazing hot desert on Salisbury Plain :)

    So Belieze in Central America and other places in the Middle East are used for those things but the first facility was down on the South Coast of England. No idea if it is still there but its basically a facility which comprises of several terraced streets and a small block of flats both of which are typical in Ulter so the British Army can practice hyper-realistic urban scenarios such as a major riot with an PIRA sniper or raiding houses for suspected terrorists to simply running and maintaining a road block.

    Its facilities like that which save lives. On that basis, Fort Irwin should be made availible to all American units and not just special forces.

  2. [...] 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. [...]

  3. [...] The National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California is one of the most sophisticated training environments in the world. It’s designed to give participants opportunities to make mistakes and learn in a seemingly chaotic, but in reality quite controlled, environment. Actual combat is not the place to learn from your mistakes. [...]

  4. [...] The 3rd Special Forces Group was 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. [...]

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