The 3,000 Iowa National Guard soldiers bound for Afghanistan could be in situations that will force them to make life and death decisions in a matter of seconds. They’re learning how to deal with those situations during training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
One training exercise, known as “The Shoot House,” involves a structure containing a half dozen rooms. Troops enter each room with weapons drawn. If they see a cut out photo of an enemy combatant, the soldiers shoot to kill.
A second of hesitation could put the troops in danger, but acting to fast could kill or injure innocent people. Private First Class Erik McDonald of Iowa City says it’s a nerve wracking experience. “I looked like I was falling apart the first time I tried it,” McDonald said. “Once you get it down, especially with the same people, it’s a lot easier.”
First Lieutenant Justin Foote of New Hartford says the repetition of the exercise builds confidence. “To be able to work as a team and have trust is a key thing. If you can’t trust the guy in front of you and the guy behind you, it’s not going to work out in our favor,” Foote said.
Troops who have recently come back from Afghanistan and Iraq oversee the training and give soldiers tips and techniques. For now, the Iowa soldiers fire blanks in The Shoot House. They’ll use live rounds in the final phase of training – shortly before their deployment to Afghanistan.
By Mark Geary, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids