By Ms. Emily Athens (IMCOM)September 11, 2009
SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- The Army is constantly altering its training methods and objectives to fully prepare Soldiers for the current threats and contingencies. In an effort to meet these demands and increase Soldiers' readiness, Camp Robertson, part of the Schweinfurt local training area, has upgraded its facilities to provide the tools and equipment needed for collective pre-deployment training.
"A lot of people don't realize that we have the third largest training area in Germany next to Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels. It's 12,500 acres with the capabilities and infrastructure to house 300 Soldiers. A lot of units come from Graf, Hohenfels, and Italy to use our training area and for it to be right in our backyard ... it's unbelievable," said Bernard Ahlers, training resource specialist in Schweinfurt.
Among those units intermittently utilizing Camp Robertson, is Company A, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Vicenza, Italy, which began a 10-day mission-readiness exercise training Sept. 2.
"Training here has given us an isolated zone to maneuver around in. It's given us battle space that we can more or less control and have constant interaction with local leaders and security forces," said Capt. Joe Snowden, Alpha company commander, referring to the combat outpost (COP) they built up to use throughout the exercise.
The COP is one of many simulated areas in Camp Robertson that provide realistic situational training, Ahlers said. Other areas include a four-lane improvised explosive device (IED) highway and a replicated village of the Kunar Province in Afghanistan, complete with imitations of a mosque, vendors, a school, a police station, and a cemetery.
"We have contractors on the mock battlefields to provide patterns of life. They have their own storylines and bios ... like actors. We have police, a tribal elder, civilians, a religious person, doctors, nurses ... all these characters to add to the realism," said Maj. Javier Lopez, primary company observer-controller from Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, who is evaluating the progress of the company.
The training requires Soldiers to build relationships with this population and respond to numerous situations, according to Lopez. The exercises are meant to build their war fighting abilities through combat with enemy tactics that will prepare them for the realities of war, he said.
"I observe how they react ... how they apply the rules of engagement. We have an opposing force who replicates the Taliban, shooting mortars, machine guns, setting up IEDs, and it's up to the good guys to react. So the Soldiers have to work through it, work smart, and think of what resources they have available and employ it. It's hard. It's not meant to be easy training," Lopez said, emphasizing that it's all about counterinsurgency operations and how they can apply it in theater.
After the first week of training, Lopez praised the "wonderful facilities" of Camp Robertson, citing its value for maneuver training where units can accomplish their objectives.
"I'm glad we came here. There are lots of advantages for having a company here. We can focus on training and the size of the area is large enough. We've replicated the distances between the main support center and how they can communicate. Internally, it allows the company to exercise their own systems to command and control, to communicate, to protect themselves. It's just another great facility to use," Lopez said.