Local News

Iraqi village recreated at new Bragg training site

Posted March 3, 2009 5:38 p.m. EST
Updated March 4, 2009 12:48 p.m. EST

— A mock Iraqi village is helping soldiers at Fort Bragg train for life on the front line without ever leaving the safety of North Carolina.

Designed by the Army and a private military contractor, the "Freedom City" village gives troops an idea of what they would face when confronting locals in Iraq and Afghanistan – and trains them how to build rapport with villagers.

"The guys come in here with the mindset of, 'We are crossing into a danger area, so we need to make sure we are well prepared,'" said 1st Sgt. John Condliffe of the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.

The mock village includes a bombed-out car along the side of the road and a building that resembles a mosque. People speaking Arabic – some are Iraqis who work for the U.S. military as interpreters – play the roles of villagers.

“It’s for realism,” said Bob Hyde, a representative of Alcoa, Tenn.-based Echota Technologies Corp. who helped design the village and various training scenarios.

On Tuesday, 1st Lt. Stephen Yackley, a platoon leader in the 4th Brigade Combat Team, sought the village leader in "Freedom City" to inquire about the location of any insurgents.

"At the same time, his soldiers, his platoon sergeant and squad leaders are walking through the area, and they're asking questions," Condliffe said.

Last July, the Army funded the creation of the 13.5-square-mile training area on Fort Bragg – the largest of its kind on any Army post – and the military and contractors spent several months building three mock villages, as well as roads and bridges resembling what troops would see in the Middle East.

"It's a lot the same," Yackley said of dealing with Iraqis and Afghans. "(You're) moving through the town, and the people are standoffish. But still, you can get them to give you some information if you show them you're not just a guy in a uniform with a weapon."