SETAF readies for deployment through role-playing exercises
HOHENFELS, Germany — The Southern European Task Force’s 173rd Airborne Brigade and supporting units are practicing at the Combat Maneuver Training Center for an Afghanistan deployment next spring.
About 2,000 soldiers have been honing peacekeeping and urban combat skills at the center since Sept. 16. From Oct. 1-10, the soldiers will conduct a mission rehearsal exercise.
The exercise portion allows the soldiers to put all the skills they practice over the first two weeks into play in scenarios with more than 300 role-players from the training area dressed in traditional Afghanistan clothing.
It incorporates scenarios modeled after events that were happening in Afghanistan right up until the training began.
Observer-controllers from the training area deployed to Afghanistan to bring back information on what has been happening with U.S. servicemembers there, said Lt. Col. Darin Blancett, deputy operations officer for CMTC Command Group.
Primarily, the soldiers will practice working with role-playing tribal leaders and residents of mock villages in the training area.
However, the training area also boasts four new manmade caves for soldiers to practice cave-clearing skills they may need in Afghanistan.
Other scenarios the soldiers might encounter include reacting to makeshift bombs.
“We’re anticipating everything [during the exercise] from tribal leader ethnic disputes to terrorist attacks,” said Maj. Bill Butler, executive officer for the 173rd Airborne.
“This is not going to be a company or battalion attacking a hill. Squad leaders, platoon leaders and company commanders will be interacting with people in these villages to figure out their needs and try to meet their needs.”
Butler said the training is vital for the brigade, which has new leaders in its personnel, security, operations and logistics sections.
The brigade’s soldiers, such as Pfc. Valerie Saenz, say the training is helpful. The Afghanistan deployment will be her first.
“It’s extensive; we have long days of training,” Saenz said. “I am starting to feel more prepared because of the training.”
Other soldiers benefit from feedback from those who were on the brigade’s Operation Iraqi Freedom I deployment.
“Everything we are doing here is close to what we will be doing downrange,” said Spc. William Hankins, also from the 173rd Airborne. “People on the previous deployment have been giving us an idea of what the tempo will be like.”
Although the 173rd Airborne soldiers have had little rest between the deployments, Butler said morale is good.
“The morale within the brigade is fine,” he said. “This is about being a nation at war fighting the war on terror. The soldiers expect to deploy.
“This is why most of us joined the Army, to fight for American principles.”