Thursday, June 14, 2012

National Guard Trains To Kill You In South Dakota

Black Hills helps soldiers prep for urban warfare

"Tourists arrive in the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, but the unique topography is also drawing military units from throughout the country and around the world for one of the largest National Guard training exercises in the United States.

Here for the Golden Coyote training exercise, military units are working to re-create the stress of combat and mixture of civilian, tourist and wildlife populations soldiers encounter in war theaters such as Iraq and Afghanistan, all while training with foreign soldiers.

Military units from six countries and 17 states — 2,200 soldiers overall — descended on the Black Hills for the two-week Golden Coyote exercise, now in its 28th year. The operation began June 9 and runs until June 23.

Other military bases don’t offer the sort of realism of nearby civilian populations, rough terrain and wildlife that the Black Hills does, according to those involved in the training.

“You’re always in a sterile environment. You’re in this large training environment, but you don’t have civilians,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Jordan, who was helping oversee the two-week exercise. “Here in South Dakota, you got people going about their lives.”

Other training exercises aren’t as large, either.

“This is probably the only National Guard exercise that allows such a large formation of National Guard soldiers to come together in a realistic environment,” Jordan said.

Each individual exercise plays into a wider, two-week scenario, in which terrorist forces are working out of Denver and Minneapolis, seeking to gain control of the region.

Individual exercises range from urban combat to forest and vehicle patrols and include firearms training, medical training and exercises to learn to react to improvised explosive devices.

On Wednesday, two units from Arizona and Missouri played out a scenario win which they patrolled in an enemy village, showing American strength. The soldiers slowly crept through grass and trees toward a ramshackle town, but as they approached the several buildings, combatants opened fire on them with paintball guns.

Paintballs whizzed past soldiers, splattering against the sides of corrugated tin buildings. Soldiers got hit, dropping to the ground to act like casualties as others stormed into the buildings. Soldiers "killed in action" laid in the streets, waiting to be dragged to cover. Yells for suppressing fire pierced the clack of shots fired. Squads advanced from building to building, taking cover behind each edifice.

By the time the paintballs began flying, the action unfolded quickly, and chaos ensued.

“We try to at least replicate the speed of combat. Combat happens very quickly, so things are going to be happening very quickly. They’re going to take casualties,” said Capt. Mitchell Nachtigall, who was overseeing the exercise."


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