Home News Local News NATIONAL GUARD GOLD MEMBERS GET 'BATTLEFIELD' EXPERIENCE
NATIONAL GUARD GOLD MEMBERS GET 'BATTLEFIELD' EXPERIENCE
By Dick Mason
Observer Staff Writer
The hazard was imaginary and real.
Christopher Kerr understood this well.
Kerr was among six soldiers participating in an FTX field training exercise conducted by Eastern Oregon University's National Guard GOLD (Guard Officer Leadership Detachment) program. The GOLD soldiers were in the rugged High Valley area between Cove and Union Nov. 8-9.
Participants, armed with paint ball guns, took part in simulated battlefield combat. The terrain is filled with steep cliffs that were particularly treacherous at this time.
"It was raining all the time. It would have been easy to slide down the cliffs,'' Kerr said.
The exercise was conducted with the assistance of about 15 other EOU students, many of whom played the role of the enemy in attacks. In addition there was an EOU student who played the role of a civilian. The man played the part of a farmer who was upset because a battle was being fought on his land.
He provided a good test for the GOLD troops because in actual warfare soldiers often encounter civilians caught in the middle of a conflict. This is often the case in places like Afghanistan, where civilians are caught in the war between the United States and al-Qaida.
"Civilians are often right in the middle but are not part of it,'' said Seth Musgrove, an EOU student in the GOLD program.
In the High Valley exercise, GOLD members secured the farmer to guarantee his safety. It was later discovered that the civilian was an informant for the enemy.
The paint-ball guns, which fire projectiles that explode with red paint, add a sense of realism to battlefield training exercises, Musgrove said.
"You know when you are hit. You feel it,'' Musgrove said.
Projectiles fired by paint-ball guns sting because they travel 300 feet per second.
In some situations, though, paint-ball guns are not realistic. For example, a paint-ball projectile will not hit someone if fired through brush, unlike a bullet, Musgrove said.
In some National Guard battlefield simulations, laser-tag systems are used instead of paint-ball guns. Kerr prefers using paint-ball guns because laser systems often malfunction.
One of the most important things students learn during field training exercises is how to protect their squad members in combat situations.
"Being responsible for someone's life it doesn't get any more responsible than that,'' said Daniel Tuck of the GOLD program.
Other GOLD soldiers who participated in the field training exercise included Michael Kuhl, Isaac Callendar and Dan Edtl.
The soldiers are in Phase II of their training program, one that will be completed by the end of the school year.
Phase III will take place next summer in Fort Lewis, Wash. At the end of Phase III the soldiers will be ready to become commissioned officers in the U.S. Army if they have a four-year degree.
The soldiers in EOU's GOLD program are directed by Capt. Ricardo Gloria and Sgt. 1st Class Mark Warren.