By Sharilyn Wells/ParaglideApril 30, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Little did Ken Barnard know that by accepting the invitation to visit the U.S. Army Special Operations Command he would be taken "hostage," get caught in a riot, witness a leaflet drop, get rescued on a roof top, and fly to "safety" in a Chinook. On Tuesday, USASOC opened its training doors to a selected group of supporters of the command and military to increase their knowledge of USASOC's operations and training.
Barnard, who was born on Fort Bragg, said he is a huge supporter of the military and USASOC. So much of a supporter that he founded Patriot Hunts which takes wounded Soldiers and children who have lost a military parent, hunting and fishing. Barnard was one of four lucky visitors chosen to follow a six-man clearing team as they cleared a building room by room filled with "enemy" with live ammunition.
"This was better than any other carnival ride," Barnard said. "There was no qualms about it, I felt very safe with these guys. I'd put my life in their hands anytime."
The annual capabilities exercise demonstrated the capabilities through a progressive real-life scenario to help supporters better understand what special operations are.
The major point stressed was that USASOC isn't a single identity, but a total of seven units that work together to accomplish the mission; each element has its role on the battlefield.
USASOC is made up of Special Forces, the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Special Operations Support Command, 4th Psychological Operations Group, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and the 75th Ranger Regiment.
"This exercise is to show American's what we do - what the special operations Soldier does on the battlefield," said Col. David Maxwell, group strategic initiative director. "These are real-world training scenarios to sustain and maintain capabilities overseas."
The day started off with the visitors touring the USASOC headquarters where they were soon thrown into a real-life scenario when they were taken captive. After getting briefed on the situation, the visitors got the chance to watch the Black Daggers, USASOC's free fall demonstration team, jump onto the building's front lawn.
After the demonstration, visitors were bused to Range 37 to see the special operations training area. They watched Soldiers clear rooms and they received a sniper demonstration. The visitors also got a chance to fire a MK 19 grenade launcher, sniper rifles and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. They got to taste the delicious meals ready to eat that Soldiers eat in the field and received a combatives demonstration.
A simulated gun battle interrupted the demonstrations as U.S. Forces regained control over the visitors. Civil affairs escorted the visitors to Range 68 where they encountered a riot and witnessed a psychological operations leaflet drop and speaker broadcast to help calm the rioters. The visitors were then herded through the village to the top of a building to wait for their evacuation. Two MH-6 Little Birds and two MH-47 Chinooks flew overhead and landed on rooftops near by.
Sliding down ropes, repelling Rangers cleared buildings as military working dogs attacked insurgents. Once a perimeter was set up around the village, the visitors were evacuated to Simmons Army Field by Chinook - ending their day of excitement.
"People are the most important aspect in our missions," Maxwell said to the visitors as the exercise ended. "That is why we wanted to inform and educate you in hopes you will tell our story."