Urban warfare keeps training ‘real’

Master Sgt. Derrick D. Crawford, Story and photos
21st Theater Support Command

***image1***The deserted German village of Hammelburg was recently the realistic setting for the 95th Military Police Battalion’s Military Operations on Urbanized Training.

Hammelburg has been uninhabited since the German Army evacuated the Bavarian city at the onset of World War II. Now it is part of the German Infantry School training area and is considered the premier MOUT training site in Europe, said Capt. Matthew Leblanc, 95th MP training officer. It is located 20 kilometers west of Schweinfurt and features a MOUT site with 120 buildings, a woodland fighting area, live fire facilities and an extensive sewer training facility.

“This is as realistic as we can get it,” said Captain Leblanc. “An urban environment is where our Soldiers are fighting most in Iraq, receiving the most opposition as they flow through cities. There’s no better way to be prepared for it than to train for it.”

The two-week exercise was a culmination of the unit’s training conducted throughout the year and involved platoons from each company in the battalion. Each platoon rotated through training events, focusing on providing area security, conducting cordon searches and checkpoint ***image2***operations. It ended with the platoons joining in an assault on a four-story building fashioned as a “hotel” commandeered by enemy insurgents.

Captain Leblanc tapped into the Army’s Lessons Learned material online and standard operating procedures currently being used by elements of the unit serving in Iraq to develop a more realistic training scenario.

“We’re trying to portray the enemy as we know the enemy from what some of the combat veterans have seen and what we see in the news,” said Staff Sgt. Jerry Elam, 115th Military Police Company (Provisional), who led the opposition forces in the role of insurgents.

Opposition forces set up in and around a four-story building trying to create an atmosphere similar to the intense house-to-house fighting MPs face downrange with insurgents. Inside, MP Soldiers cautiously inched up the ***image3***steps through billowing black smoke as shots echoed off concrete walls.

“It’s a rush. Anyone can shoot a weapon or drive a truck, but it’s when you actually have to use your head that it really makes you feel like a Soldier,” said Pfc. Nicolas Traficanti, 230th Military Police Company, after taking part in the assault. “All your training comes back to you in one big rush of energy when you run into that building to assault the objective.” 

Training military police to expect the unexpected was the mission.
“I don’t think there is a more prepared Soldier than the MP who, in his mind, can quickly separate the friendly population from the enemy and be able to assess each situation and change levels of force,” said Captain Leblanc. “That’s what we’re trained to do, and we do it in peacetime and in war. By mixing noncombatants with combative forces, we test the Soldiers’ ability to turn the switch.”

Learning how to make the right decisions quickly in those harried circumstances is definitely not by chance. MP leaders know that decision-making ability is rooted in realistic training like that offered at Hammelburg, Captain Leblanc said.