November 21, 2005
Fort Gordon is playing a vital role in the war on terrorism. Before soldiers fight the real enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq, they fight a fake enemy right here. News 12 spent the night at Fort Gordon to get in inside look at soldier training.
The face of war is changing, so Fort Gordon has a new way to train soldiers. Defeating terrorism is a fight against a network, not a nation. The enemy could be anyone, oftentimes dressed as a common civilian.
Here’s the scenario: the convoy has stopped because soldiers spotted an explosive device. This is one of the top killers in the Middle East. It is a trap. When they get off their vehicles, the enemy opens fire. This scenario isn’t real, but it is close to what soldiers can expect in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I’m prepared to go, and training like this prepares me every single day.”
Private First Class Hinddo Entin is a former school teacher who felt called to serve his country. Once deployed, he will likely be overseas for several months.
One tough issue is what to do when soldiers come across a civilian. It is hard to know who is friendly, and who is the enemy.
“It’s the hardest decision you’ll have to have to make in your life, if you are gonna pull the trigger or not.”
First Lieutenant Kevin Rearden helps lead the training at Fort Gordon. His goal is to give the service men and women real scenarios the challenges they will face, right down to enemy clothing.
"It gives the trainees here something to shoot at to make the experience more real," said Specialist Evan Bartlett.
They also have to learn to read coordinates. If they don’t, they could get lost in hostile territory.
Their convoy didn’t get lost in this simulation, but the soldiers did fall into a common trap. An enemy force blocked the road, and the massacre began. Staff Sergeant Joseph Leonard says kill or be killed.
“If someone is shooting at you, the only thing you’re thinking about is protecting yourself and the people you’re with,” Leonard said.
This is good in theory. But in this exercise, many did not make it.
Urban combat in and around the building can be the most difficult and the most dangerous, because it's hard for the troops to tell if the enemy is inside and if the enemy
And insurgent forces have easy access to weapons. They can make them out of almost anything.
“This is one of the big things we are facing is homemade RPG’s,” said Sgt. Timothy Grega.
RPG stands for Rocket Propelled Grenade.
Getting the enemy out of a building is one of the most difficult and most dangerous things they have to do, which is why this drill is so important. The enemy can be waiting with a gun around any corner, or worse than that.
“People can pop out of windows, they can come from roofs, holes in the ground, doors and walls,” said First Lieutenant Kevin Rearden.
This becomes even more difficult in a hostage situation. Soldiers aimed at the enemy, but the mission was not successful when they missed and hit the hostage. This is all part of the learning experience to fire under pressure.
“We work these different jobs so the outside world can be free.”
For PFC Entin and all the other trainees about to do this for real, failure is not an option when it comes to protecting the American people or themselves.
The training is meant to be as realistic as possible, right down to the twenty-pound body armor everyone had to wear.