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Pfc. Izaya Harris, a soldier with the Louisiana Army National Guard, awaits an imminent attack from American-led forces during a war game held as part of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV. The final event of Allied Spirit IV took place at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.
Pfc. Izaya Harris, a soldier with the Louisiana Army National Guard, awaits an imminent attack from American-led forces during a war game held as part of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV. The final event of Allied Spirit IV took place at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Pfc. Izaya Harris, a soldier with the Louisiana Army National Guard, awaits an imminent attack from American-led forces during a war game held as part of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV. The final event of Allied Spirit IV took place at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.
Pfc. Izaya Harris, a soldier with the Louisiana Army National Guard, awaits an imminent attack from American-led forces during a war game held as part of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV. The final event of Allied Spirit IV took place at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Roughly 130 National Guardsmen from Louisiana and Ohio took on the role of opposing force during the final event of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV held at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.
Roughly 130 National Guardsmen from Louisiana and Ohio took on the role of opposing force during the final event of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV held at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Staff Sgt. Gary Leleux, a member of the Louisiana Army National Guard waits for American-led forces to attack during the final event of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV in Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015.
Staff Sgt. Gary Leleux, a member of the Louisiana Army National Guard waits for American-led forces to attack during the final event of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV in Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Roughly 130 National Guardsmen from Louisiana and Ohio joined the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment as the opposing force during the final event of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV. The force-on-force mock battle took place at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.
Roughly 130 National Guardsmen from Louisiana and Ohio joined the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment as the opposing force during the final event of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV. The force-on-force mock battle took place at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Roughly 130 National Guardsmen from Louisiana and Ohio took on the role of opposing force during the culminating event of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV held at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.
Roughly 130 National Guardsmen from Louisiana and Ohio took on the role of opposing force during the culminating event of the U.S. Army-led training exercise Allied Spirit IV held at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
Members of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment opposing force, or OPFOR, converse with their opponents after the mock battle that took place at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.
Members of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment opposing force, or OPFOR, converse with their opponents after the mock battle that took place at Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)
1st Lt. Robert Hurd, a platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, walks off the battlefield after the first leg of the culminating event of Allied Spirit IV, held at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.
1st Lt. Robert Hurd, a platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, walks off the battlefield after the first leg of the culminating event of Allied Spirit IV, held at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (Michael S. Darnell/Stars and Stripes)

HOHENFELS, Germany — More than 100 Louisiana National Guardsmen, aided by a handful of combat engineers from Ohio, learned during a training exercise Tuesday what it’s like be the enemy facing American troops.

They did so during the final war game of Allied Spirit IV, a U.S. Army Europe-led multinational exercise in Hohenfels.

Their job? To repel an attack on the fictional town of Aghjabadi by a U.S.-led coalition of troops. The U.S. team, called the Blue Force, brought personnel carriers, helicopters and hundreds of troops.

The opposing force, or OPFOR, was made up largely of National Guardsmen, who got some of their training from the Joint Multinational Readiness Center’s 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment.

The regiment makes a living playing the role of enemy during training rotations. In essence, they are JMRC’s “bad guys.” They even look the part. During operations, the OPFOR members are dressed head-to-toe in all-black uniforms.

“The rotational units come here to train. We like it when the BLUFOR (Blue Force) leaves on a high note, when they succeed,” Maj. Ryan Liebhaber, the battalion’s executive officer, said before the assault. “But they need to understand that through that process it’s going to be painful and difficult for them, because we’re going to provide them some very stiff opposition.”

On Tuesday, 1-4 actually proved to be too much of a challenge for the attacking force. Hours before the final assault was to begin, JMRC’s headquarters had 1-4 pull most of their troops out of the area, giving the Blue Force a clear path to Aghjabadi.

This also left the approximately 130 Guardsmen solely responsible for playing the role of OPFOR, a first for many of the troops. It was, they said, a reality check.

“It’s sobering,” said Staff Sgt. Tim Buzi, Ohio National Guardsman. “If you’re a smaller force against a larger force … it’s not a good feeling. To get both sides of the battlefield is interesting.”

It wasn’t that long ago that the OPFOR looked, and operated, differently.

“If you went back in time three years, the OPFOR was mostly focused on replicating an insurgent threat, preparing units to go to Afghanistan and prior to that, Iraq,” Liebhaber said. “Within 1-4, we were essentially organized into insurgent cells that would go out and just replicate the sorts of threats the U.S. forces were facing.”

About two years ago, that all changed with the twin pressures of budget cutbacks and the shift in focus in Europe toward the threat of Russia after its incursion into Ukraine.

Now, instead of replicating Taliban insurgent threats against American forces, the 1-4 is imitating the tactics of a more direct, more technologically savvy opponent. To that end, they now more closely resemble a microcosm of an army, complete with tanks, armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles.

As with most training at JMRC, a greater focus is also being placed on multinational partnerships. While the OPFOR in this instance was all American soldiers, throughout Allied Spirit, elements from Italy and Slovenia also took on the role of the opposition.

“We really give the people here training a run for their money,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Tulley, an infantryman with the OPFOR. “They have a lot of different obstacles they have to overcome when they face us.”

darnell.michael@stripes.com

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