Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Hollywood props, deployed by the U.S. Army

There was no one there but us and the fake chickens.

I visited the U.S. Army’s training center at Fort Polk in Louisiana this month with some fellow foreign correspondents to see soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division training for a mission in Afghanistan. For 21 days, the soldiers are meant to live and operate as if they had already deployed to the war zone. (You can see the story here.)

The center goes to great lengths to recreate the experience that troops will face in Iraq and Afghanistan. That means fireworks to simulate bomb explosions, fake blood to make casualties look realistic, and Afghan or Iraqi role-players to act as civilians, security force members and interpreters.

The Army even allows “relaxed grooming standards” for the soldiers who play insurgents — they are allowed to grow beards and long hair to look the part.

The trainers produce a daily newspaper which reports on the previous day’s events in the fictional Afghanistan, along with an enemy propaganda sheet which can be filled with lies.