A mock Iraqi village is located in the heart of Fort Jackson -- complete with a mosque, cemetery, mayor's office, burned-out vehicles and Arabic street signs and graffiti.

Basic Combat Training Soldiers get their first taste of what to expect during a future deployment through their training at the Military Operations on Urban Terrain site.

Soldiers learn how to navigate rooms and clear buildings, explained Staff Sgt. Yamekeia Thompson, a drill sergeant with Company F, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment.

The unit takes a "crawl, walk, run" approach to training at the MOUT site. Last Friday, during the crawl phase, Soldiers learned how to enter and secure a room, following step-by-step instructions from their drill sergeants.

The exercise became harder as other elements, such as "dead spaces" -- areas of a room that are not clearly visible -- and stairs were introduced.

"Dead space and stairs are the most dangerous aspect when clearing a building," Thompson said.
After the Soldiers learned the basic tasks, they moved on to the "walk" phase. A team of Soldiers conducted a clearance step-by-step without immediate help from the drill sergeants.

The unit will return to the MOUT site this week for the "run" phase as part of its Victory Forge exercise. This time the drill sergeants will introduce stressors to add realism to the training.

Soldiers have to clear buildings while encountering civilians and enemies -- portrayed by role players -- in addition to dodging simulated small arms fire, grenades, improvised explosive devices and being distracted by Arabic recordings.

"The principle is very realistic. We integrate different scenarios into it during the Victory Forge stage," said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Adkins, drill sergeant with Co. F, 3rd Bn., 34th Inf. Reg.

Learning the basic steps it takes to effectively clear a building is essential, but Soldiers are also encouraged to be creative in their approach, since every situation they will encounter downrange is unique.

"The most difficult aspect is for the Soldiers to learn to think outside the box," said Staff Sgt. Edward Cummings, a drill sergeant with the unit. "We teach them the basic concept, but they have to engage themselves to figure out the situation."

Pvt. Anthony Carter, Co. F, 3rd Bn., 34th Inf. Reg, appreciates that the realistic training at the MOUT site prepares him for being deployed.

"The techniques we learn here could be very helpful if we ever deploy," he said. "The drill sergeants know what they are talking about, they're very good teachers. This will really help us when we go to Iraq."