Urban warfare in a rural setting

At first glance, war looks to have already broken out. Windows are shattered, buildings caved in, walls crumbling down. And that’s the point.The Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC) is the Army’s flagship site for teaching soldiers how to fight in city environments. Operated by the Indiana National Guard, the facility encompasses 1,000 acres, including a 180-acre reservoir. The purpose of MUTC, National Guard Brig. Gen. Clif Tooley told members of The American Legion’s National Security and Foreign Relations commissions – along with other Legionnaires – during a recent visit, is to “provide the most realistic, contemporary operating environment possible in which to mobilize and train the joint, interagency, inter-government, multinational, non-governmental team to accomplish missions directed toward protecting the homeland and defending the peace.”In order to create a “complex environment,” Tooley said, the facility has developed:• A complex physical terrain with realistic urban terrain building types; compromised infrastructure such as power, water, sewage and communications grids, along with collapsed buildings, apartments, and urban canyons; and urban clutter, including vehicles, equipment and rubble.• A complex informational terrain, consisting of broadcast, print and Internet media, and an electromagnetic spectrum communications and information system.• A complex human terrain, including social systems involving economic, political and cultural systems; primary group structures such as family and community; and secondary group structures like government, factions, military police, businesses and industries.A former mental hospital, MUTC is the only urban-warfare training center that houses an entire city, featuring a Middle Eastern marketplace setting, several pristine and already damaged buildings, working businesses, a prison complex and underground tunnels spanning a mile. Tooley said the facility is a work in progress; its overall size will be expanded, and features will be added to it. Future additions will include an embassy setting, oil refinery area, soccer stadium and several farms.“We’re building a training center for the 21st century,” Tooley said. “We’re taking the lessons from the past and applying them to a new business model.”The facility has been or will be used by U.S. military forces, state and local law-enforcement groups and the Slovak army, among others.“I think something like this is really important,” said Mike Helm, chairman of The American Legion Foreign Relations Commission. “Our forces are going into areas where 95 percent of the people are good and 5 percent are evil. We’ve got to figure out a way to deal with the 5 percent and not make the other 95 percent mad at us. A facility like this really helps with that.”MUTC also includes the Patriot Academy, a National Guard Bureau pilot program where qualified recruits can earn high-school diplomas in a military-academy setting. Prospective soldiers go through basic training before attending the academy and continue to learn military skills while accruing high school and college credits.The National Guard Bureau hopes to enroll up to 500 students at the academy by 2011.The group also toured Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, Ind. The National Guard facility, which has mobilized more than 60,000 troops since 2002, can be mobilizing or demobilizing 3,000 to 5,000 servicemembers at any time.Camp Atterbury also hosts full-theater immersion sites for servicemembers heading to forward operating bases, a SEAL sniper school compound, vehicle convoy training simulators, and weapons simulators. Legionnaire Charles Bennett of Post 28 in Farmington, Maine, got a chance to fire a 240 Bravo machine-gun simulator.“It’s a hell of a lot different than firing an M-16, I can tell you that,” Bennett said. “It’s amazing, absolutely amazing. I wish they’d had that when I was in the service.”  Steve Brooks is multimedia editor for The American Legion.