Support: Finding The Best People For The Worst Situations


July 16, 2011: Among the many combat training villages the U.S. Army has built is one that is, well, different. This one was built at the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School, to train first responders dealing with possible incidents of chemical, biological or radioactive materials use. American troops have already encountered chemical and biological materials in Iraq, but the special training facility is also for training civilian first responders. The nine hectare (22.5 acre) facility in Missouri went up in 2007 and contains train and vehicle wrecks, as well as battlefield situations featuring buildings, caves and tunnels where such harmful materials may be encountered. The $40 million facility is a test for troops and civilians who have studied what to look for. Here, they get a chance to see those potential situations in a highly realistic fashion. Still, the trainees fail to spot the nasty stuff about 20 percent of the time. Most trainees eventually pass, but the experience quickly reveals who your best people are.

Combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has driven home the importance of realistic training. As a result, urban warfare (or MOUT, Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training areas were built all over the United States (including one in Alaska). In addition to dozens of buildings, these facilities often include a live fire range, so that troops can also train with live ammunition. The U.S. Marine Corps built similar MOUT centers.

Both the army and marines have developed new tactics for MOUT battles, and need the specialized training areas to teach the troops how it's done, and to work on improving current tactics, and maintaining skills. One thing that was learned going into Afghanistan, was that you can't have too much practice when it comes to MOUT. It's a tricky business, with ample opportunity for getting ambushed, and for friendly fire losses. You must have well thought out, and combat proven, drills, and the troops must be well practiced in their use. The same thing with chemical, biological, and nuclear materials.


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