This article is third in a three part series illustrating roles people play at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center:
Part 3 focuses on civilian role-players
MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind.— Calling all actors…is this a casting call for the next big budget, movie set? No, it’s training at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center. Civilians from neighboring towns add a realistic feel to training for approximately 5,700 service members and employees of local, state and federal agencies during exercise Vibrant Response 13-2.
Vibrant Response is a major field exercise designed to coordinate timely federal response to catastrophic domestic incidents. The exercise is conducted by U.S. Northern Command and led by U.S. Army North (Fifth Army). In part of Vibrant Response, the MUTC uses civilian role-players who undergo makeup to portray injured citizens caught in the “aftermath” of a catastrophic, domestic incident.
The MUTC uses various outlets to announce civilians needed as role-players.
“I found out about role-playing through Facebook, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how the military conducts training,” said Ashley McDonald from Seymour, Indiana.
“I work at a local radio station and was given a public service announcement about the exercise-taking place here,” said Erin Moore from Seymour, Ind. “Also, I am involved in community theater and thought this would be a great way to expand my acting resume.”
Lights, camera, action…it’s time for the role-players to act their part as they call for food and water, plead for medical attention, and yell for rescue from nearby service members going through the training. Decontamination sites and medical evaluations are some of the training events at MUTC that role-players take part in.
“We (role players) are supposed to be in Columbus, Ohio after an explosion just occurred,” said Moore. “I saw the military outside of my staged area and immediately went in to acting mode; I called to them for emergency assistance.”
“This is my first time at Muscatatuck doing this (role playing),” said McDonald. “I enjoy acting as a character for this training; I yell out for help as the military comes by in their chemical suits.”
The role-players makeup is applied to reflect the various environments of radiological, chemical and biological hazards. The role players could be suffering from simulated dehydration, broken bones, blisters and, or burns.
“I scared my mom one day when I left from role-playing at MUTC,” mentioned McDonald, as she laughed recalling the incident. “She was extremely worried until I told her it was makeup from the Muscatatuck role-playing job.”
“The injuries look real and not at all like makeup,” McDonald continued.
Not only do the role players act as citizens suffering from a devastating crisis but they also incorporate other training aids into their act.
“I have a son who is about the same age as what I imagine this mannequin being,” Moore said. “So for this role as a displaced citizen, it wasn’t very difficult as a mother to imagine how I would feel if the mannequin was my suffering child in need of medical attention.”
“When we are role-playing, we are given a driver’s license and a patient information card; it informs the military of our pulse and what type of injury we have,” said McDonald.
“On my license card, my name is Christen Faison, and on my vitals card I’m supposed to be someone who is extremely dehydrated with superficial radiation burns but able to walk around,” said Moore.
As the sun dips behind the everlasting horizon, and the sky is swept with various colors of reds, oranges, purples and blues. The moon is slowly creeping into her nighttime position. Then without warning night is upon Muscatatuck, but it doesn’t impede the training.
“Nighttime role-playing is even more exciting,” said McDonald. “All of the pyrotechnics looks better at night versus during the day; I think it is important for the military to do training at night as well as in the day.
The importance of having realistic training at Muscatatuck is not only important to the service members, but to the civilian role players as well.
“I have talked to several military personnel who have said that this training has helped them beyond what they imagined,” said Moore. “In the past, they would use mannequins, but having role-players just makes the training so much more real--realism is key.”
“I think the role-playing helps the overall training because it adds a realistic aspect on how the military should interact with citizens in time of crisis,” said McDonald. “It adds a great graphic affect for the personnel going through the training.”
After seeing and being a part of the training at the MUTC, she would join just for the experience and the opportunity to be involved with similar training said McDonald.
“I have two kids serving in the military, so for me the opportunity to make this training realistic helps me feel that I’m indirectly helping them,” said Moore.
Moore continued, “I am really proud as an American citizen to be part of this training. I think this is a very vital part of the mission for our military.”