Soldiers from the Iowa National Guard hosted a tour for members of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee in Johnston Thursday. The Iowa Guard has asked for 1.5 million dollars in federal funds to improve training for soldiers headed for urban combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. The congressman toured the guard’s training facilities where soldiers learn to enter a house or other building in search of insurgents.
Deputy Adjutant General Mark Zirkelbach says with more buildings at the training site, they can more accurately simulate a neighborhood in the middle east. "They can learn how to drive in a hostile environment, to move into a village, and actually move into a breaching and entry and clearing operations," Zirkelbach says.
Hundreds of soldiers from Iowa and other states already train in urban combat at Camp Dodge. Currently, there are buildings at Camp Dodge where soldiers practice entering a house, apartment, or school. Lieutenant Colonel Greg Hapgood says more buildings would be added to simulate an entire village, including a mosque.
Hapgood says,"It’s possible if you are working in Afghanistan or Iraq, its possible that you may encounter a mosque and there are certain rules internationally, rules of engagement in a mosque." At one time, the guard had as many as 3,400 soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently two units are there, and another is on its way.
Two congressman, Leonard Boswell of Iowa, and committee chair Ike Skelton of Missouri, say they hope Congress approves the guard’s request for the money.