Murphy's Law: November 25, 2003


Another one of those things you don't notice in Iraq is the low number of friendly, and civilian casualties from all those operations involving American troops charging into buildings. That problem was largely solved by the invention of "Mobile MOUT (Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain)." Shipping containers have been converted to modules representing rooms that can be endlessly reconfigured for training for fighting inside buildings. The containers are 8-feet wide by 9-feet high by 20-feet long and have movable walls that allow quick reconfiguration for whatever MOUT training is desired. The containers can also be joined side-by-side, or stacked to create multi-story buildings. There are also reconfigurable stairways (open or enclosed), allowing the troops to learn to deal with the tricky business of fighting up and down stairwells. A typical Mobile MOUT has fifteen of these modules, plus a 16th that contains a briefing room where the troops can view videos, after their training, of what they did right, and wrong. All the modules are instrumented (cameras and sensors to keep track of who shot what with their MILES/Laser Tag equipped weapons.) There are also realistic dummies representing enemy troops, and friendly civilians. Set ups like this were invented during World War II to train commandos, and were called "kill houses." Back then, real ammo was used and it was expensive to keep repairing the kill house after a heavy workout. Only commandos could afford this kind of training. But the Mobile MOUT units don't have that kind of damage because of the laser operated MILES equipment. While each Mobile MOUT container costs about $150,000, fully equipped, it is easily shipped. And that's exactly what was done earlier this year as a Mobile MOUT system was set up in Kuwait and Afghanistan. Mobile MOUT's first prototype was created in early 2002. The system has proved so popular that, so far, over a hundred modules have been built, and many more are on the way. 

But here comes the punch line. Earlier MOUT training facilities had to overcome an additional hurdle, getting Congressional "military construction authority." Congress has always carefully controlled military construction projects. But Mobile MOUT is not considered a building. They are, after all, just shipping containers fitted out for urban combat training. So Mobile MOUT is considered just another training aid and does not need Congressional approval to get built. And because Mobile MOUT is so successful (the troops love it and it really works), Congress is not likely to make a fuss. 


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