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PRESENCE-L  August 2003, Week 3

PRESENCE-L August 2003, Week 3

Subject:

Simulating the front lines

From:

Matthew Lombard <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Matthew Lombard <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 18 Aug 2003 09:03:08 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (183 lines)

FROM THE PRESENCE-L LISTSERV:

[From the Duluth (Minnesota) News Tribune
(http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/news/6543717.ht
m)...

--Matthew ]

Simulating the front lines
BOSNIA BOUND: Northland soldiers experience the real deal in
preparation for deployment overseas.

By Chuck Frederick

FORT POLK, La. - The armored Humvees waited on the edge of the
uprising at the open-air market, machine guns manned and ready.

Soldiers from the Northland and elsewhere crept carefully toward
the protesters. The mob waved hand-scribbled placards. Angry
screams escalated to the verge of riot.

The situation looked and felt real, but it wasn't. It was one of
dozens of scenarios staged over the past two weeks to help
members of Duluth's 2nd Battalion 194th Armor prepare for
deployment to Bosnia.

The Northland National Guard members will help keep a sometimes-
fragile postwar peace in the southeast European nation.

Protests, ethnic tensions and other encounters are possible.
They're precisely what the soldiers faced in training exercises
on this sprawling military base with actors, or role players,
assuming the parts of Bosnian villagers.

"What we're trying to do is sort of simulate Bosnia here at Fort
Polk. We have recreated Bosnian cities around our base camp,"
said Capt. Chuck Traxler of Roseville, Minn., a spokesman for
the Minnesota National Guard. "Coming in here, we wanted to
throw the absolute worst-case scenarios at these folks."

"The thinking is that if we react properly here and get through
this week, we can get through anything Bosnia throws our way,"
said Lt. Col. Kevin Gutknecht, commander of the 194th."You
really feel like you're in Bosnia here. The people in the little
villages look like Bosnians. It's all very realistic and very
effective."

Members of the 194th -- known as Task Force Iron on this mission
-- arrived at this steamy, sun-baked, west-central Louisiana
base late in July after being activated two weeks earlier.
They're expected to wrap up training this weekend.

After a few days of leave for many of them, they'll be flown to
Bosnia from Volk Field, in south-central Wisconsin. They'll
serve until late March or early April in east-central Bosnia,
near Tuzla, about 100 miles northeast of Sarajevo.

"A lot of what they'll do is diplomacy," Traxler said. "In
Bosnia, we want them to spend a lot of time talking to the
people and building relationships. What we're doing here is
getting them used to that."

American troops have been in Bosnia more than seven years
assisting law enforcement and a struggling new government. The
idea is to offer assistance until the nation can stand on its
own. About 1,400 American troops are in Bosnia now, supported by
another 1,800 foreign troops.

"We are a stabilization force that keeps the peace and assures
freedom of movement," said Maj. Jarrod Krull of Rosemount,
Minn., another spokesman for the Minnesota guard. "Units rotate
in and out. Every unit that goes over has to go through these
sorts of exercises."

At the open-air market, the Northland troops negotiated a
peaceful resolution; merchants weren't forced to move into the
nearby village. In the simulated town of Ugljevik, the troops
vowed to do everything they could to clean a contaminated well
that was sickening residents. And while on patrol through the
countryside, the soldiers came across a bus rollover and
administered First Aid to dozens of mock victims.

"At first I was a little iffy and nervous about this whole
mission. But as I've gone through the training, I've started
feeling better. I've realized, yeah, I can do this," said Pfc.
Adam Thole, a 2002 Hermantown High School graduate. His job is
taking meticulous notes during patrols.

"I'm looking forward to going now," the 20-year-old Wal-Mart
employee said. "The sooner we get over there the better. We're
ready. We're ready to get the job done and get home again."

"We train and train and train," said Sgt. Jonathan Katzmark,
who's studying business administration at the College of St.
Scholastica. "Here's a chance to put our training to practical
use. It's exciting to become a part of history. This mission
shows just how important the guard has become worldwide."

The 194th's 350 or so members are among some 1,300 soldiers
stationed at or training for myriad missions at Fort Polk. The
only military facility of its kind in the nation, the nearly
200,000-acre base is largely wilderness. Wild horses roam open
fields. Occasional armadillos litter roadsides.

The base's sand-floored pine forests are dotted with tiny
ramshackle villages. Authentic-looking Bosnian road signs lead
Humvee patrols toward Zvornik, Brcko, Tuzla, Han Pijesak, Orasje
and other real-life Bosnian towns.

In a clearing at the heart of it all is the 194th's base camp. A
Duluth flag flies at its center. The flag will go along to
Bosnia, where the unit will live and work out of already-
constructed buildings. The base there includes a cappuccino bar,
gymnasium and even a Burger King.

Here in Louisiana, the unit's camp looks like a circus. Multi-
colored tents serve as offices, barracks, a chow hall and a
medical clinic.

Lines of parked Humvees mark the jumping-off points for the
training patrols. Ten to 12 patrols roll toward different
scenarios daily.

"Every day is a learning experience," said Spc. Terry Johnson of
Duluth, who is studying law enforcement at Fond du Lac Tribal
and Community College. "I'm definitely being challenged as a
soldier. This is real-world stuff."

"It has been an adventure," said Pfc. Lucas Solie, who treats
rural water for a living for North Country Water Treatment of
Britt.

"The heat down here, I've never experienced anything like it. It
just knocks the wind out of you. It's a little overwhelming at
times," Solie said of heat indexes that have topped out at just
under 120 degrees during training. "And these scenarios, they
throw everything at you. It's intense. I think it's probably the
best training we can get before we actually head over there,
though. It's just like being there."

On active duty for four years, Sgt. Mark Weir of Duluth has been
through similar training before.

"We're all getting to know each other right now and how each
other works," he said. "That's important. We're developing trust
and teamwork. That will carry us through."



___________________________________________
Matthew Lombard, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Director, Mass Media & Communication Ph.D. Program
Temple University

(215) 204-7182
[log in to unmask]
http://matthewlombard.com

=====================================================

Join us for PRESENCE 2003
The 6th Annual International Workshop on Presence
6-8 October
Aalborg University, Denmark
Details at: http://benogo.dk/presence2003/

For other presence resources, visit the web site of
ISPR, the International Society for Presence Research
at: http://ispr.info

=====================================================

___________________________________________________
Presence-L is the listserv for discussion and
announcements related to the concept of presence.

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