By Fort Campbell Courier StaffOctober 9, 2009
Out the back gates, away from the stamp of civilization and Army life, is an entire other world that most dependents hear about but never see. Fort Campbell continues for thousands of acres, but just outside the gate, Soldiers are able to step into another country.
About 13 minutes outside Mabry gate, on Palmyra Road is an uninhabited village.
"[We] have been working on it specifically on this site here for about six-months now, trying to incorporate a sort of non-specific Iraq, Afghanistan type of a theme," said Don Eiben, Red 1 Range 60 land manager.
Although still a work in progress, the village has approximately 100 buildings, including a gas station, mosque, police station, a hospital complete with beds and dental chairs and a market place.
It also has both a vehicle overpass, a check point with a pedestrian walkway and extensive road networks leading in and out of the village to the surrounding land, about 25 acres in total.
The ever expanding village is used by Fort Campbell's battalions to combat the top killer in both Iraq and Afghanistan - improvised explosive devices.
"Historically through the years we've been in Iraq, we've learned how the enemy attacks us, and the IED environment," said Jeremy Hawks, EOD subject matter expert. "We want to set this up to fill all the training objectives that we've learned from the past, all in one area, so this could be the counter IED training area."
Range 60 works with the Counter IED Cell on Fort Campbell, which is constantly getting intelligence from both theaters about trends in IEDs that they then incorporated into the village.
"We'll incorporate those trends into our training so Soldiers that have deployed, or have never deployed, going into battle will have been taught those trends and basically will help them know what to look for and almost get a sixth sense," Hawks said.
Those trends included things as simple debris or rock piles on the side of the road.
"What the Afghans and Iraqis do is they pile rocks so they know when to trigger the device," explained Lance Logue, Red 2 Range 60 land manager. "Out in the deserts, when there's nothing like telephone poles for you to measure it off, they'll do that."
Although they simply look like debris to the untrained eye, Logue said insurgents use them as homemade aiming stakes. A bomb could be triggered as the convoy passes the first marker, and be timed to detonate as they get to the second.
A more complex trend represented is homemade explosives labs.
"What they've been using in the past for the main charge of an IED was mostly military munitions," Hawks said. "The army uses artillery which launches a really big bullet down range and it explodes. You take the fuse off of that artillery round, you have a hunk of metal with a lot of explosives in it. They were using those for main charges. Well, they're running out of those artillery rounds, and those military munitions and those land mines, so they kind of transitioned into making homemade explosives."
Range 60 currently has three homemade explosive labs spread throughout the village, in buildings that look no different on the outside to any other.
Inside, however, the building is split into three rooms, each with simulated supplies needed to manufacture one of the three main groups of explosives being made in Iraq - chloride based, peroxide based and nitric based.
"We'll move the equipment in and simulated chemical precursors and set it up so that to show this is what it looks like when they're actually making it," Hawks said. "They'll know the three different types of homemade explosives under manufacture just by the equipment and the chemicals that are in the room."
The labs can be set up to contain all the chemical precursors and equipment needed to manufacture an explosive, or they can be set up to only show parts of each explosive in process.
"As the enemy tactics change, our tactics change," Hawks said. "We get smarter on what they're doing; they change what they're doing to try to hide it from us. They're getting smarter on us catching them. They're spreading out their operations to different buildings."
Eiben emphasized that the entire range was still a work in progress, so it was never the same twice for units training. The range was constantly receiving new equipment from Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, and Logue, Hawks and he were constantly coming up with new ideas for training scenarios.
"It pretty much depends on what the platoon wants to train on, we can replicate or simulate it out here somehow," Logue said. "A lot of the stuff we have, if we don't have it, we can tell you where to find it."