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 July 23, 2010

Mobilization

Cultural Role Players help Soldiers
train for deployment

Story & photo by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems & Services

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.

PHOTO: 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. Photo by Tom Michele
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 Freedom.

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 various situations.”

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 situation.”

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.

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