The army first began using COBs during the 1960s, and revived the practice in the 1990s to prepare troops for peacekeeping duty in the Balkans. Opinion surveys indicate that troops who trained with COBs had a much easier time of it when they got overseas and had to deal with the real thing.
The U.S. Army has been hiring terrorists for training exercises. The U.S. Army has been turning military jobs over to civilians since the early 1960s. With the war on terror increasing the demand for peacekeeping training, and dealing with civilians in general, there has been an increased demand for people to play the part of civilians, and terrorists, in the exercises. For a long time, other soldiers were used. But this took the troops involved away from their regular jobs, and did not accurately represent the civilian population the troops would encounter. When possible, civilians who resembled those to be encountered overseas were hired. This was not always possible, and was expensive as well (as the needed civilians usually had to be flown in to the training area.) Another method is to hire local civilians, and train them to dress and act as the foreign civilians would. For example, Ft Hood (home base for the 1st Cavalry Division and the 4th Infantry Division, as well as a training base for reserve unit), hires local civilians at $11.25 an hour. Some of the COBs (Civilians on the Battlefield) are former soldiers, some are aspiring actors. After being fitted with the appropriate clothing, they are taught the several roles they will be called on to play. Men who are recently out of the army or marines are favored to play hostile gunmen. Women play women (although occasionally small men will be drafted for this as well.) Most days, as many as 60 COBs will be spread over several training areas. The COBS work up to 40 hours week, but do it in 10 or 12 hour days. Trainers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan will brief the COBs and make sure that they perform their roles realistically.