Some explanation–since I’ve been getting views on the SP-03 videos over in the video “widget.” In September 2003, I and many of the members of our Reserve unit packed up and went to Oahu, Hawaii to participate in a training exercise for the 25th ID (Infantry Division).
They are stationed on Oahu, and were to be deploying to Afghanistan six months or so later. So they wanted to train up. As with most units in the United States military, they are already well trained in military operations–how to shoot stuff, how to blow up things, how to organize and supply and conduct themselves in battle.
However, in the world today, there’s much more going on than the proper way to clean your rifle and keep the sights on the enemy.
This training was all about conducting they type of warfare we’re all familiar with nowadays from the news–fighting a minority of bad guys while not hurting (at worst) and helping (at best) the good guys.
So for this kind of wargaming, there are now places to train troops before sending them to a destination. The most sophisticated use ultra-accurate mock-ups of villages and terrain, and well-trained personnel that know the culture and hopefully speak the language to teach the troops what to look for and how to most effectively interact with the local populations.
In the case of the 25th, the training was not quite as fancy or total as some of the current simulation villages. It was conducted on the island, and we Reservists provided the warm bodies to be the local population.
We were given personas to play out. Mind you, we were not Army, nor were we Civil Affairs types. But we did the best we could, acting out either hostile, neutral, or friendly local characterizations. So, apologies to anyone of those intended cultures, we tried–and for most of us neither knowing the language or the culture in depth, we did a fairly effective job of providing push-back to the troops.
I’m very proud of what we did. We helped the troops fail. Yes–fail. By failing at several spots in the training, they were able to look at what they did wrong and rectify it. I like to think that we therefore saved lives by doing so–both our troops and locals as well. After a particularly bad incident, the commanding General stopped the exercise and called a reset–just like a video game.
The troops learned that: it’s BAD to blow up the mosque of a village that you want to be friendly toward you and your cause; it’s BAD to kill all the villagers to save the village… etc.
One of our unit, Frank (and not remembering his last name right now–sorry Frank!) brought a Sony videocam, and filmed several days worth of action, mostly at his village, the MOUT that was named Kardez in the exercise.
I think he did a great job with a hand-held, non-commercial video camera, and I hope you’ll forgive some of the darkness of the night attack. The little camera was doing the best it could!
Others of us were stationed up in the Kahuku Mountains at a village called “Piersonville,” and still others were at a displaced persons camp, also in the Kahukus, a little ways from us.
The slide show was put together from digital photos from many members of our unit. I believe it was Jason Stahl that put the slide show and the movie together. For what he had–some random imagery, music off the ‘net, and a laptop, I think he did a great job! Jason is an old buddy of mine I was stationed in Iceland with. He was enlisted as a maintenance guy there. Then he show up in our unit as an officer. Gosh–there’s no telling with some people… 🙂
He showed the slideshow and movie at the end-of-training awards banquet, which was really cool and quite moving.
Standard disclaimer #1: As far as I know, there is no copyright on this stuff, and copies were given to anyone in the unit who asked for them. But if you see this footage anywhere else, just know who actually created it, and neither claim false credit for its creation, nor accept false claims of credit.
Standard disclaimer #2: Yeah, Hawaii. Beautiful. But if you’ve ever been there, then you might know how rugged the mountain terrain is, and how hot, wet, and nasty it can get up there (as you might notice from some of the footage in the movie and slideshow). And this was no pleasure cruise. Mind you, many of the Reservists brought family, because most nights we got to go back to the hotel. No family members were hurt in the making of this flim… 🙂 And I’m sure they had a good time while we were all sweating our tails off with those Afghan hats on and fighting off mosquitos and centipedes.
That’s not to say that we didn’t have time off about half-way through when they reset the training. So I did get to go down and hit the beach one day, and again the day we were done. And I did get time when the day was done to go to a few places to check out the island. I have to say, I really like the island! Though having lived on a tropical island for a couple of years beforehand, I understand how people say they can get “island fever,” and need to finally go somewhere else.
All in all, I’d say that it was worth it, both on a professional, and personal level. I feel that I both got a lot, and gave a lot, and that’s a win-win that I can live the rest of my life with proudly.
*SP-03 — From our unit’s perspective, the trip was called SP-03 for “Special Project 2003.” If I remember correctly (and I could be wrong) the exercise was called “Night Viper” by the 25th ID.
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