Special Report: Real-Life Training Prepares Texas Soldiers For Insurgents - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/30/04-Ft. Polk, Louisiana

Special Report: Real-Life Training Prepares Texas Soldiers For Insurgents

Protecting themselves behind a humvee, soldiers fire gunshots at insurgents. A missile is launched into the same dense woods the enemy uses as a hiding place. Men and women, dressed in traditional Iraqi clothing, line the streets in protest. It sounds like a war-torn Iraqi city. But all this is happening on U.S. soil in Fort Polk, Louisiana. Its 200,000 acres have been transformed to replicate the conditions of Iraq. A unique method to train the Texas Army National Guard for war, before they actually set foot in it in Iraq.

Each day, soldiers are sent on mock missions. They've all learned "battle drills" which is a set way to respond to any situation or even an attack. Soldiers in the field communicate with the men and women inside the Brigade Tactical Operations Center to coordinate a strategy of attack. In the field, every detail in the training process is not left unturned. For example, in the mock Iraqi city given the name "Salia" there are role players dressed in Iraqi garb, walking up and down the streets going about their business. Soldiers would also be on the streets patrolling. It is here, soldiers are trained to battle insurgency. For example, at an Iraqi "school" a bus sits there, destroyed by an attack. Large gashes in the bus and its broken windows look as if it was damaged by an "Improvised Explosive Device" or I.E.D. The back of the bus has also been riddled with bullets. Yards away sits a simulation of a downed United States Army helicopter. It is here, Army medics can come in and get hands on training on how to treat their fellow soldiers. Soldiers would actually be inside the copter pretending they were severely injured or dead and the medics would learn how to rescue them from this type of situation.

Soldiers also have to learn how to interact with Iraqi civilians by staying calm and using force only when absolutely necessary. They even have to learn their language and be sensitive to their culture. But unfortunately, the insurgency is real. While on its way to a "mission" a U.S. convoy was attacked by the enemy. And they respond with more gunfire. Inside the villages the insurgency is the same and so is the potential to be hurt as soldiers also play the role of the injured.

We caught up with some East Texas soldiers in the 2nd of the 112th Armor 3rd Platoon. They are on stand-by to assist other soldiers in a mock Iraqi village. "We've had a couple convoys ambushed so we're going to have 11 or 12 wounded out there so our mission right now is to actually go out there and pick them up and get them back to safety and get them back to the aids station as soon as possible," says 2nd Lieutenant Rodney Kelley who calls Jacksonville home. Standing on top of a humvee Sergeant Daniel Hurley of Tyler says, "We know we're going to rescue some people and we're just preparing for the worst case, which is lots of enemies." Palestine resident Corporal Jay Perdue says this about the mission, "I'm prepared to see [the potential of serious injuries]. We deal with this on a daily basis."

There is always a level of uncertainty of what to expect in Iraq. But what is certain is these troops are going on the real mission to restore peace in that country with the intention of returning to their families safely.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com

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