News: MOUT Training Faces Soldiers with Complex Scenario
Story by Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
By Staff Sgt. Michel A. Sauret
354th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
FORT DIX, N.J. – Instructors from the 1st Army military operations in urban terrains trained Soldiers from the 1175th Military Police Company today as part of their mobilization readiness to Iraq.
The 1175th MP, a National Guard unit out of St. Clair, Mo., engaged specific targets using key intelligence while safeguarding Iraqi civilians in the simulated village of Balad.
"Everybody is always geared up for that high intensity mentality," said Sgt. Mark Maslon, operational warrior trainer for 1st Army, originally from Palmer, Mass. "But we also try to teach (Soldiers) the other side. Going in a little more calmly. Talk to the people. Talk to the sheiks. Get a little more information that way."
Information is a key factor in Iraq today. Soldiers gather information by maintaining good relationships with leaders and villagers as a whole. This allows for greater intelligence, which helps narrow military attacks to specific enemy targets.
"It used to be we conducted cordon and search of entire neighborhoods here," said Capt. Nate Russ, a San Diago, Calif., native and officer in charge of MOUT. "But with the situation in Iraq developing through Iraqi police taking more of an active role, we tailored this mission to be more intelligence driven and that's why it's (now) a raid mission as opposed to a cordon search," Russ said.
During the scenario, the 1175th Soldiers targeted a vacated schoolhouse to retrieve an informant kidnapped by insurgents. Soldiers knew exactly what building to engage because, realistically, missions have improved to incorporate specific intelligence. Instead of searching the whole town, they engaged a specific building.
This keeps military efforts concise. A platoon-sized element can now accomplish what before required an entire company, Russ said.
However, the Soldiers still had to face complex challenges.
"We make them think a lot," Maslon said.
The instructors stacked the scenario with a lot of different elements, including: sniper fire, suicide bombers, hidden rooms inside buildings, IED threats, mortar attacks and even friendly civilians approaching vehicles with cheers.
"Not every Iraqi is the enemy," Maslon said.
That is a vital component in the exercise, Russ said.
"With civilians walking around, (MOUT training) makes the Soldiers become aware of their surroundings," he said. "If they don't identify those individuals as a threat, they don't engage."
The trainers used friendly civilians to force Soldiers to react with a more critical mindset. The goal was to create an exercise even more difficult than what they might face during deployment, Molson said.
"It's always hard to know what's expected," said Sgt. Brian Vassali of the events that unfolded, squad leader for one of the assault elements. "It kept us on our toes the whole time. I expected good training out of it, and that's what we got."
The instructors prepared Soldiers for the challenging scenario by starting small and building up. First, Soldiers learned how to clear rooms as a four-man team. Then, teams worked together as squad elements moving through a street of multiple houses. Finally, Soldiers worked as a platoon to secure a specific area and raid the schoolhouse.
"Once they go through (the smaller exercises) three or four times, they no longer make the simple mistakes," Maslon said. "By the end of day two you see all of the pieces working together and (Soldiers) work more as a team and more efficiently."
The soldiers took the training seriously because of the sense of realism it provides, especially with the role players, said Vassali.
If there is one element that helped create that realism it was the sheer confusion of everything happening at once.
"The scenario is realistic in the sense that so many things can happen," Russ said. "The number of variables that come up in this scenario are countless...It's just a mass confusion. It's definitely one of the most realistic situations we can put these guys in."