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.
by BRYAN WILLIAM JONES
For the more remote exercises, we moved with two twelve-man teams in a small convoy. As in the simulated town of Medina Wasl, exercises out in the open desert are organized into “lanes,” each lane designed to exercise observation, navigation, engagement or defensive maneuvers. Live-fire exercises feature pop-up targets you engage from a mounted position. Targets spring up, activated by remote control, and gun crews must identify and engage with live rounds. Other maneuvers test problem-solving, negotiation of Vehicle-Borne Explosive Devices (VBED) and reaction to an ambush.
Some situations were isolated small-arms engagements, where teams of two insurgents hid at some distance from the road and engage as we passed. Other engagements were more sophisticated: insurgents hit us with more sophisticated Improvised Explosive Devices or VBEDs, combined with small-arms assaults from protected ground. Some lanes had hidden IEDs with a high kill-probability if not spotted — the purpose being to train Special Operations Forces operators to look carefully for the signs of IEDs: wires, disturbed dirt or sand or oil or solvents on the ground.
(Photo: Bryan William Jones)
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