Fort Polk, LA. (KALB) Over the weekend, several dozen people had front row seats to a mock war scene at Fort Polks Joint Readiness Training Center.
Soldiers who train at 'The Box' on Fort Polk are faced with realistic combat situations. Everything from engaging the enemy to taking care of casualties. Pyrotechnics, along with an opposition force made up of soldiers in the 509th and village role players help create a war zone. It's a group effort Fort Polk takes pride in
"Fort Polk has been the center of Army readiness since at least 1941," said Col. Sean Bernabe, JRTC Commander of Operations Group. The goal is to create worst case scenarios so that soldiers are prepared for anything.
"The indirect fire, the artillery, the mortars, to make sure our soldiers are exposed to the chaos of combat...we want to present very tough, complex situations for the soldiers, force them to deal with those to do some problem solving on the fly to provide them with some mental models that they can apply overseas."
Todd Kirchner, a squad leader in the 509 said that "at some points it does kind of get overwhelming and that's when you learn the most. You have to take that breath, look around and assess everything that's going on and try to make a decision from there.
Saturday's training was open to the public. Although the war sequence took three days of rehearsal, Kirchner says soldiers know it's not a game.
"It's not just point and shoot at anything that moves we have to make that quick decision of identifying who is the enemy and whose not."
Melissa Slaght's husband has been in the army for 15 years and deployed 4 times. She was one of several dozen people to tour the box Saturday, something she says puts military service into perspective.
"Just the level of training that they have is far above anything I could even grasp before coming here. Most people in our country don't have the opportunity to see first hand what the soldiers go through and how great our military is."
The area where Saturday's training took place is called Gordon - Shughart, named after two fallen Army snipers and Medal of Honor recipients.