News: Opposing force saves lives
Story by Sgt. Tanya Van Buskirk
FORT MCCOY, Wis. – About 1 million active and reserve soldiers need to be ready on a moment's notice to defend nearly 300 million Americans. Being ready to launch an attack requires confidence by the force, and the “train as we fight” approach is what the U.S. Army opposing force program (OPFOR) is all about.
OPFOR is a "sparring partner" for commanders. It is used in training events as realistic field training by running through operations against a non-cooperative, uncompromising opponent that uses tactics, doctrine, and equipment that could be encountered in current or future combat operations.
The U.S. Army Reserve uses live training that gives soldiers practice doing the tasks they do individually or as part of a team the same way they will do it in combat.
Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 2013, being held at Fort McCoy, Wis., in the month of May, simulates enemy activity carried out by OPFOR-designated soldiers. Wearing uniforms that resemble the likely enemy is what sets the OPFOR teams apart and their vehicles may be similar to those operated by the likely enemy. Enhancing training realism provides useful lessons on how to fight the enemy.
U.S. Army Sgt. Rick Baker is a combat engineer, specializing in demolition, land mines and improvised explosive devices with the 314th Engineer Platoon. He is part of the OPFOR during WAREX 2013.
Baker has 15 years of combat experience in unconventional warfare with more than 1,700 logged combat missions outside the wire.
“The objective of the training is to show the soldiers how vulnerable they are to insurgent attacks - for them to see just how easy it is for someone to drive up to them and kill them,” he said.
“Each unit gets several opportunities to react to a variety of scenarios the OPFOR carries out, and each time they improve because they are more aware of surroundings,” Baker added.
According to Baker, ambushes are a standard tactic that the Army has used for centuries and at WAREX we are trying to show them our lessons learned through realistic scenarios that are happening now.
Baker says investing in the training at WAREX, will be the key to saving lives in future combat operations.
“Making mistakes here will help eliminate some of the worse mistakes made in combat. Complacency kills, and I would like to know that as a member of OPFOR I can help soldiers learn to survive,” said Baker.
Baker adds, “The first time we are hitting these units at WAREX with an ambush they have difficulty reacting in time to save lives, but when we go back and do a similar scenario they do much better.”