NAUSORI HIGHLANDS, Fiji - Lane two of the Situational Training Exercise (STX) lanes in Nausori Highlands Training Area, in Fiji, on September 20, 2022, during Exercise Cartwheel, U.S. Army Sgt. Jacob Morriss, B Co. 2-27 squad leader of 1st platoon, showed me what it meant to be the Opposing Force or OPFOR; this mainly consists of using realistic ambushes or attacks to give participants an experience that they can pull from for future combat they might face.
On lane two, they were protecting a cache of supplies from the incoming units, hiding on the edge of the wood line, Sgt. Morriss and Pfc. Nicco Barile holding onto his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), waited until the soldiers from the 2nd/1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment pushed in for an assault. At the same time, firing his SAW, Pfc. Nicco Barile simulated being shot by the enemy, which made the New Zealand soldiers push forward, making Sgt. Morriss retreat into the jungle, where he was shot and killed. After each person was shot, the New Zealand soldiers checked the enemy and their weapons to protect them from possibly getting shot from behind while moving further into the jungle of the Nausori Highlands.
Playing OPFOR, the Soldiers of B Co. have responsibilities to make the interaction realistic.
“As OPFOR, we are the enemy for training purposes,” said Barile, “to help out whomever you are training with, that simulates a real environment or war.”
This is necessary to teach others how to take over objectives or move as a unit under stress-inducing situations.
“We are guarding this cache,” said Barile, “and the personnel coming in are supposed to be fighting us for this position, and taking over the cache is their mission for lane two.”
Part of the required training is learning to check enemy weapons and equipment before moving forward to prevent a combatant from shooting them in the back.
“So as OPFOR, we are the enemy combatants,” said Barile, “and they are coming down here to our perimeter, so they are openly picking up our weapons, clearing them, just in case we are not fully deceased. So then, if we were not fully deceased, we could get up and return fire upon them when they pass us.”
Sgt. Morriss wanted to do the training as accurately as possible and explained to me the importance of checking the enemy.
Once we die, they will move up and set up security,” said Morriss, “check us for explosives, booby traps, or anything sensitive like maps to help them continue on their mission.”
After New Zealand finished running through STX lane 2, a quick after-action review was held, which addressed the unit’s performance, and talked about the positives and negatives of the attack they just made on the cache.
Sgt. Morriss wanted to express his appreciation for being in Fiji and training with these partner nations.
“Fiji is beautiful; it’s great out here, the Fijians are very hospitable, and they are great people to be around.”