TRAINING AND SIMULATION
Training Rotation Incorporates Diplomatic Features
A military exercise at Fort Polk, La., has fused diplomatic elements into Army training, stressing the importance of interagency and multinational cooperation during an operation.
The training, held at the Joint Readiness Training Center in October, included participation from over 4,800 personnel from the Army, Air Force and special operations forces.
In the scenario, the United States comes to the aid of an allied nation, “Atropia,” after it is attacked by a hostile nation named “Ariana.”
Former State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development personnel staffed a mock consulate in a fictional Atropian town called “Dara Lam” and worked with the Army to organize noncombatant evacuation operations.
U.S. forces also had to coordinate with local Atropian government officials, who were portrayed by roleplayers.
Matthew Welch, a roleplayer who acted as Dara Lam’s provincial governor, said he had worked with the brigade commander, deputy brigade commander and American consulate general on getting water, food and necessities for the people of Dara Lam.
“At one time we had over 10,000 displaced citizens in Dara Lam because of what’s going on, and I worked very closely with them on getting the supplies to keep the city running,” he said.
During his visit to the JRTC, Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal said he talked to commanders about challenges they faced on the interagency aspect of the training.
“In an exercise like this, very unique in a way, there are going to be mistakes; there are going to be things we didn’t consider,” he said. Part of his job as the chief management officer would be to work with Army leadership on how best to coordinate with other government agencies in the future, he said.
Communication between Americans and Atropians wasn’t limited just to high-level commanders and government officials. Soldiers also had to speak with Atropian civilians in order to gather intelligence and sniff out potential insurgents.
“My guys went out on pretty much almost every patrol or every other patrol,” said Brent Prier, a specialist from 82nd Airborne Division’s 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment. “We got to do a lot of interacting. We went throughout the town, we met practically every roleplayer … that was actively in town on a day-to-day basis.”
Roleplayers agreed that it was important that soldiers make mistakes in training rather than in theater. For example, soldiers attempted to get into an Atropian vehicle without permission, which could have caused friction if it had happened on an actual battlefield, said Mike Ketchum, who played the Atropian director of finance.
“We’ll cooperate all you want, but you can’t get into our stuff without asking. If you ask us, we’ll cooperate. But if you don’t, we’re not,” he said.
However, not all roleplayers were willing to cooperate. Lloyd Elletson, who formerly served with the National Guard, portrayed an instigator participating in protests where he and other dissatisfied Atropian citizens threw simulated rocks and bottles.
Troops need to be able to work with helpful citizens as well as manage troublemakers who aim to further agitate volatile environments, Elletson said. “They [soldiers] have to show accountability for their actions.”
Photo Credit: Army