|Story & photo by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems &
Iraqi and Afghani villagers walk down a street. Farmers
tend their gardens. Host country soldiers guard a checkpoint. These are
some of the scenarios U.S. Soldiers are encountering on their patrols
through Fort McCoy’s training sites.
A Soldier shakes hands with the
mayor of a Central Asian village as another Soldier provides
security during a situational training exercise. The mayor is a
cultural role player, acting the part of a local official. The
Soldiers are with the 299th Engineer Company, an Army Reserve
unit in Fort Belvoir, Va., training to deploy in support of
Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Mobilizing U.S. Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors encounter cultural role
players (CRPs) in numerous scenarios on McCoy’s training sites before
deploying for a tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Enduring
CRP missions, actions and wardrobes are based on the latest feedback
from the theater of operations. Using CRPs adds realism to the training
provided by the 181st Infantry Brigade, which conducts mobilization
training at Fort McCoy.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey McGlin said CRPs help U.S. Soldiers get the
feel of exactly what they might encounter in their theater of
operations. “The use of CRPs in mobilization training helps Soldiers
identify friendly civilians from hostile ones and how to react in
McGlin is the command sergeant major for the 2nd, 411th (2/411th) Logistics Support
Battalion. The 2/411th is one of five battalions that comprise the 181st
Infantry Brigade, which conducts mobilization training at Fort McCoy.
“Encountering CRPs during training helps Soldiers practice reacting to
and overcoming cultural differences and language barriers,” McGlin said.
“Dealing with CRPs helps the Soldier prepare for the chance that
something negative will happen, then to properly react to that
The role of CRPs is to help replicate in-theater scenes U.S. forces will
encounter on their missions.
“The intent of the CRPs is to emulate the local people of the country
where our mobilizing Soldiers will deploy,” McGlin said.
Working in tandem with the CRPs are the foreign language speakers who
travel with the convoys and serve as translators between the Soldiers
and the local civilian CRPs. They also work alongside the CRPs located
in villages. Their knowledge of the language and culture is invaluable
during the training process.
Also working in conjunction with the CRPs during scenarios are Opposing
Forces (OPFOR), who are U.S. Soldiers portraying hostile threat forces.
OPFOR Soldiers dress like Iraqi or Afghani locals, and walk among the
CRPs. The OPFOR are much different, however, in that they likely have a
weapon or explosive under their garments, ready to burst into action
with blank ammunition against the U.S. Soldiers on patrol.
Soldiers interact with CRPs during five days of situational training
exercises (STXs) and in the five-day mission rehearsal exercise and many
other training sites at Fort McCoy.
The STXs include at least a dozen individual situations Soldiers could
face at contingency operating locations, base camps, on roadways, in
cities, villages and rural countrysides.
The goal is to provide the best training possible for all Soldiers,
Airmen and Sailors who go through mobilization training at Fort McCoy,
to instinctively and correctly respond to the immediate and ongoing
situations, McGlin said.