Support our mission

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — A few dead animals — especially dead dogs — are all that is keeping this little “Iraqi village” from near perfection.

“[The soldiers] asked for them, and we’re trying to get that for them,” said Ted Leza, local training area supervisor. In fact, Leza said, they asked for all sorts of animals to make the Baumholder military operations urban terrain site (MOUT), as close as possible to a day in Iraq.

“I don’t know if we’ll get the camel,” he said. “Maybe a donkey, goats … stuff like that.”

On the drawing board is a market, maybe even a taxi stand, with Iraq’s ubiquitous orange-and-white taxis.

On Saturday, replacement soldiers went through Individual Replacement Training (IRT), getting a realistic sample of how fighting in Iraq might be. Such training isn’t new, but soldiers who have done only the Army’s early iterations of urban training will be entering a new dimension in realism.

In lieu of the sterile cluster of buildings meant to replicate an urban neighborhood, Baumholder’s two-month-old ersatz Iraqi village has shells of cars pulled in from the Baumholder strip lot. There’s garbage everywhere, just like in Iraq.

And just like in Iraq, simulated bombs go off so close, and with such force, that you feel them more than hear them. It’s a chaotic place where civilians turn into insurgents before the soldiers know what’s going on.

Saturday’s blazing sun and crushing humidity even made it feel like Iraq.

One two-time Iraq veteran rated highly the realism of Baumholder IRT training at the new site.

“Everything changes every day [in Iraq],” said Staff Sgt. Eric Fontaine, 25, with the 16th Engineer (Combat) Battalion in Giessen. “I’d say [the scenarios] are about two-to-six months behind” insurgent tactics.

Fontaine liked how there’s so much chaos at the Baumholder facility. New soldiers “learn 10 times as fast if you drop the entire pile on them instead of taking them through one task at a time,” he said.

Baumholder’s new local training area facility — the village, a new overpass for convoy training, areas for dismounted patrols and a “base gate” — is the little brother to the much larger facility at Grafenwöhr. But the facility can handle everything from convoy live fires to battalion-level operations, Leza said.

While it was too much for some of the support soldiers, Fontaine and his buddy Sgt. Bobby Hillyard, 23, who’s also headed for his third Iraq deployment, seemed to groove on for what most soldiers would have been hours of hell.

“I had a good time,” said Hillyard. “I had a good time!”


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up