Fort McCoy News May 24, 2013

Opposing force tests WAREX 2013 participants

STORY & PHOTO BY SGT. TANYA VAN BUSKIRK
304th Public Affairs Detachment

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — About 1 million active and Reserve Soldiers need to be ready on a moment's notice to defend nearly 300 million Americans. Being ready to launch an attack requires confidence by the force, and the "train as we fight" approach is what the U.S. Army opposing force (OPFOR) program is all about.

OPFOR is a "sparring partner" for commanders. It is used in training events as realistic field training by running through operations against a non-cooperative, uncompromising opponent that uses tactics, doctrine, and equipment that could be encountered in current or future combat operations.

PHOTO for OPFOR
Sgt. Rick Baker, with the 314th Engineer Platoon and an opposing force
member, stands beside his vehicle while it is searched for weapons by
Soldiers of the 485th Engineer Company at Forward Operating Base
Liberty.
Photo by Spc. Michael McDevitt

The 78th Training Division, an Army Reserve unit from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., hosted the exercise.

The exercise was designed to provide Army Reserve personnel with dynamic combat environment simulations and teach the latest tactics to be used to ensure mission success anywhere in the world.

The U.S. Army Reserve uses live training that gives Soldiers practice doing the tasks they do individually or as part of a team the same way they will do it in combat.

Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 2013, which was held at Fort McCoy in May, simulated enemy activity carried out by OPFOR-designated Soldiers. Wearing uniforms that resemble the likely enemy is what sets the OPFOR teams apart, and their vehicles may be similar to those operated by the likely enemy. Enhancing training realism provides useful lessons on how to fight the enemy.

Sgt. Rick Baker is a combat engineer, specializing in demolition, land mines and improvised explosive devices with the 314th Engineer Platoon. He was part of the OPFOR during WAREX 2013.

Baker has 15 years of combat experience in unconventional warfare, with more than 1,700 logged combat missions outside the wire.

"The objective of the training is to show the Soldiers how vulnerable they are to insurgent attacks — for them to see just how easy it is for someone to drive up to them and kill them," he said. "Each unit gets several opportunities to react to a variety of scenarios the OPFOR carries out, and each time they improve because they are more aware of surroundings," Baker added.

According to Baker, ambushes are a standard tactic that the Army has used for centuries and at WAREX the OPFOR tried to show lessons learned through realistic scenarios that are happening now in contingency areas.

Baker says investing in the training at WAREX will be the key to saving lives in future combat operations.

"Making mistakes here will help eliminate some of the worst mistakes made in combat. Complacency kills, and I would like to know that as a member of OPFOR I can help Soldiers learn to survive," said Baker.

Baker added, "The first time we are hitting these units at WAREX with an ambush they have difficulty reacting in time to save lives, but when we go back and do a similar scenario they do much better."

(Van Buskirk was assigned to the 78th Training Division Public Affairs Office to support Warrior Exercise 2013.)