HOHENFELS, Germany - As American soldiers enter a village here, they are approached by bearded men with turbans and women with burqas covering their faces. The soldiers do not know who is friend or who is foe.
The son of a Church Point couple is serving here where fictitious Arab villages have been built with actors roaming about, giving it the look and feel of being in a war zone. The actors are supporting a mission to train American, NATO and allied soldiers on how to deal with unknown situations that are sure to face those who go to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Army Spec. Christopher L. Carriere, son of Craig and Lynn Bihm of Charlene Hwy., Church Point, is a member of 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment located here at the Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center. He is an all-wheeled vehicle mechanic and supports fellow soldiers who function as enemy insurgents, or known within the Army as an opposing force, or OPFOR.
“We train soldiers in preparation to go downrange to a war zone,” said Carriere, a 2007 graduate of Eunice High School. “We train a wide variety of military units from the United States and Europe to make sure they are sufficiently trained in battle drills.”
With the rat-tat-tat of AK-47 assault rifles echoing through the village here, the OPFOR insurgents challenge soldiers who treat this war-gaming situation as a real-life evaluation. Allied soldiers and insurgents alike have rifles equipped with laser systems that allow for the exchange of gunfire. Everyone wears a laser receptor system that will give off a loud shrill if they are shot. The goal is for soldiers heading to the war zone to learn from potential combat pitfalls here rather than making the mistakes on the battlefield.
“This training is important, so they can come home safely. I want them to have learned about battle drills and protective awareness so they can come home safely,” said Carriere.
Some of the actors here are hired civilians who dress and play the part of Arabs living in a village, while others are American soldiers who are trained in tactics used by insurgents. Combined with villages that could typify a real town in Iraq or Afghanistan, a look and feel of being in the war zone is achieved.
“This is a woodland area with the feel of an urban environment. We build towns and forward operating bases, so they can get the feel of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Carriere.
For Carriere, serving here in support of this teaching facility is one of many experiences found within the military so far.
“I have been in the Army for two years, but have not served in a war zone yet. I still have four years to go and then I want to go to college for marine biology,” said Carriere.
Although a soldier serving in the U.S. Army, Carriere understands the importance of some soldiers here wearing a uniform that appears much like what is worn by an enemy in Afghanistan or Iraq. And by doing so is helping his comrades in arms learn the difference between friend and foe.