They would strike the enemy forces encamped in the village before dawn. State-of-the-art night-vision goggles would allow them to invisibly advance their troops and tanks under the cover of darkness. An unexpected torrential rain swelled the river and made it impossible to cross on foot. The company of soldiers would have to march back into the woods and cross at a nearby bridge.
Unfortunately, the enemy anticipated this move. Enemy troops waited until the advancing company was massed on the bridge before opening fire with heavy artillery and machine guns. The company lost almost half of its troops before subduing the entrenched enemy forces and crossing the bridge. On its way to the village, the company lost its commander and another 30 troops.
Then the real trouble began. Those who made it into the village were gunned down in a firestorm. Guerilla soldiers disabled the company's M1AI Abrams tanks with 40-pound backpack bombs. War is hell. Fortunately, this was only practice.
The War Lab
As the world's population continues to migrate to cities, battles are being waged in densely populated urban regions. U.S. war planners have been aware of this dynamic for more than a decade. In response, they are developing urban warfare strategies that integrate land, sea and air forces in blitzkrieg-style operations that strike with surgical precision.
Fort Polk, home of the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), is one of the U.S. Department of Defense's premier training facilities and is one of only three combat training centers in the world. Fort Polk hosts soldiers from the Army, the Air Force, the Army Airborne, the Rangers and Special Forces. Their equipment includes artillery, tanks and helicopters. Representatives and soldiers from the military organizations of U.S. allies are often included in the training exercises at the JRTC.
Each year, the JRTC conducts up to 10 "rotations"Ã¢â‚¬â€combat training exercises that can last between two and three weeks at Fort Polk's 96,000-acre facility in west-central Louisiana's Kisatchie National Forest. At the heart of the fort's thickly forested territory is the Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) complex. The MOUT is a series of scaled-to-life villages complete with service and civilian personnel posing as village residents, built within an area of about four-by-five miles.
The centerpiece of the MOUT complex is a town called Shughart-Gordon, named in memory of two Delta Force soldiers killed in a vicious street battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. A network of 950 CCTV cameras and advanced telecommunications systems innervates the town, monitoring and recording the action. The sophisticated Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) reports participant and vehicle locations and keeps track of who and what has been put out of commission. To add realism, selected buildings and vehicles are rigged with explosives and detonated on cue as combat trainees move through the town. The object is to create an environment as similar to actual combat as safety will allow.
Securing the Brain-center
At the other end of the audio and visual monitoring network is the JRTC-Instrumentation System Operations Center building, the brain-center of the JRTC. In addition to housing the tons of high-speed computing systems installed and maintained by Raytheon Technical Services Co., the operations center is home to teams of civilian and military personnel that track the real-time data pouring in and direct the progress of training operations. The terabytes of data collected during each exercise are studied in multimedia after-action reviews so that personnel can learn from the exercise's successes and failures.