By Spc. Paul J. Harris
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
FORT CARSON, Colo. – Range 60 is a reconstructed Iraqi town with a divide of Sunni and Shia residents played by Iraqi actors. Prayer calls boom from the loud speakers and the actors have been instructed to play certain roles such as police chief, mayor, shopkeeper and mechanic. Intermixed with the actors are insurgent role players and it was the Hunter's job to decipher who is friend or foe using tactful negotiations.
"I think the main thing that helps (Soldiers) out here is the use of actual Iraqi role players," said Capt. Michael Forbes, commander, Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry. "Because you can simulate it with Soldiers wearing Iraqi clothing but it is not the same as actually having the Iraqi personnel with the cultural background. It makes a real difference."
Forbes had the tough task of getting the Sunni mayor to sit and negotiate with the Shia chief of police and work together to battle outside insurgent influences that have been causing problems in the town.
While Forbes was negotiating, other elements of Hunters were in the town providing security and collecting intelligence by talking to the local townspeople.
Cpl. Matthew Richards, fire support NCO, Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry, talked privately with one young resident and told him about some of the suspected insurgents.
"I asked questions like 'are you safe out here?' 'Who has moved into town?' 'What's your name' and 'What are you studying at Baghdad University?'" Richards said. "Just trying to build a rapport with them and trying to make them feel safe."
While this was going on, Lt. Col. Monty Willoughby, commander, 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry, watched from the main control center, which boasted an array of video monitors that could show every nook and cranny of the simulated Iraqi town below.
"With our pending deployment in December we are trying to put the polish on," Willoughby said. "We do have some new Soldiers so they have been incorporated into the team and this gives them the opportunity to see the bigger picture."
It was that progress of the younger Soldiers that made Staff Sgt. Robert Gaumond, scout section leader, Troop B, a veteran of four deployments ranging from Kosovo to Iraq, a little more relaxed about heading into his fifth deployment.
"Your biggest challenge is making sure everybody is trained to standards," Gaumond said. "Everybody gets their time off beforehand, gets their head straight. What the training does is re-enforce (combat) situations so when they get in the situations for real they are not drop-jawed."
Willoughby also toured the town as the action was going on and when the training came to close for the day echoed the sentiments of Gaumond.
"Training to me equals survival," Willoughby deadpanned as he walked off the training site confident that his Soldiers were ready for the big leagues.