Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations. Photo by Tom Strattman

Urban warfare in a rural setting

At first glance, it already looks like war has broken out. Windows are shattered, buildings caved in, walls crumbling down. And that’s the point.

The Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC) in Butlerville, Ind., is the Army’s premier site for teaching soldiers how to fight in cities. Operated by the Indiana National Guard, the facility encompasses 1,000 acres, including a 180-acre reservoir. The purpose of MUTC is to “provide the most realistic, contemporary operating environment possible in which to mobilize and train the joint, interagency, inter-government, multi-national, non-governmental team to accomplish missions directed toward protecting the homeland and defending the peace.”

The facility – toured by The American Legion’s National Security and Foreign Relations commissions and other Legionnaires during the 2009 Fall Meetings – features a Middle Eastern marketplace setting, several pristine and already damaged buildings, working businesses, a prison complex and one mile of underground tunnels.

Future additions to the facility will include an embassy setting, oil refinery area, soccer stadium and several farms.

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 houses the Patriot Academy, a National Guard Bureau pilot program that allows qualified recruits to 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 earning high school and college credits at the academy.

The National Guard Bureau hopes to enroll up to 500 students at the academy by 2011.