FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – The 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) conducted a company level training exercise in preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan this Fall.
This is supposed to be a news report about the above mentioned training exercise, but I can’t contain my enthusiasm over letting you know what I experienced covering this story, so it might come across a little tilted.
After grumbling over having to get up in time to meet my escort at 4am, I was soon awake and excited about what was about to happen.
We were taken in darkness to an area of Fort Campbell I have never been to and probably could never find my way back to if I needed to. We were then told to walk 800 meters and wait. And wait I did. I stood there in the middle of nowhere in the darkness with my escort waiting for over an hour for sunrise.
As the light started to spill over the area I could make out the forms of buildings and soon realized that I was standing in what is suppose to represent Afghanistan. There was an eerie silence broken by the click of my camera as I was allowed to take pictures as soon as the sun came up.
And then, movement started in the fields around me as soldiers began their move on the compound. I hadn’t realized that they had been there, that close to me, for more than the hour that I had stood there.
I was then escorted into the compound which I was told was a replica of what the soldiers would find when they got over there.
That’s when I realized that I was in the midst of a movie in HD, 3D, Surround Sound and IMAX.
I was given the scenario of what was happening. The 3 platoons surrounded the compound and were tasked with finding their target by getting intel from the sister of the target, but first having to get permission or blessing from the sister’s husband. Afghanistan custom demands that women not be interviewed by males so a Female Intelligence Team was brought in with an interpreter to talk to the sister.
There were scenarios being played out at several different buildings at the same time. Some were with the husband, some were with the sister and some were with the leader of the village.
We were then stationed at another compound where the target was hiding and we waited for the troops to arrive after getting the intel on his whereabouts.
Knowing the scenario and seeing the target before the troops did, made watching the outcome even more exciting. I had an overwhelming impulse to grab one of the soldiers and tell him who the target was and where he was hiding but was told I would probably be in trouble for doing so, so I didn’t.
Speaking of reaching out and grabbing a soldier, that’s exactly what I could have done. That’s how close I was to the action. I was constantly being nudged out of the way of oncoming troops.
When the troops approached the compound, the “Afghans” opened fire and the action really started. There was literally “gunfire” on both sides of me. Thrilling!
The Troops captured some “Afghans”, as they fled the compound with the target among them. There were several casualties and the medic helicopter was called in and landed a few feet away. The landing of the helicopter, being that close to me, blowing grass and rocks around only added to the special effects of this “movie in my mind”. But it was real.
And then it was over. The target was found. Mission accomplished.
I interviewed some of the officers and enlisted men of the exercise and got a feel for how they felt it went. They were all confident that the training they had received made them confident that they could overcome any situation. The basic response was… Rakkasan is ready!