|NTC-MOUT, Fort Irwin, California|
...soldiers will hone combat tracking, night land navigation, live-fire drills and myriad of other tasks. ...the course will fill a gap in small-unit tactics after more than a decade of counterinsurgency-focused operations. … Many lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, such as countering IEDs, will be incorporated. … The course will feature basic patrolling and medical skills with an emphasis on issues that arise in the desert, said Capt. Mark Walden, leader of the detachment tasked with training the students. … The inaugural Desert Warrior Course is scheduled to kick off June 1 at Fort Bliss.
The US Army already has a desert warfare training center at Fort Irwin, California, 37 miles northeast of Barstow, California. It has been in operation as a National Training Center since 1979 and is over 1200 square miles designed for maneuver and ranges via cavalry and armor operations. An Opposing Force was developed to make the combat simulation as real as possible. The center was the first to set up a MOUT, Military Operations in Urban Terrain training program. It has several mock villages used to train troops in urban warfare prior to their deployment. The new training center at Fort Hood is one million acres, larger than Fort Irwin.
So, the question is: Why does the US Army require two desert warfare training centers? The Irwin center has two complete villages: Medina Wasi and Medina Jabal, complete with mosques, hotels, traffic circles and Arabic-speaking opposing force actors playing as villagers, street vendors, and insurgents.
Why is a duplicate constructed and used in Texas when there is a training center in California? Can the cost of two such centers be justifiable? Fort Hood has one million acres, and Fort Irwin 1200 square miles, which is 748,000 acres. Congress needs to step in and close one of the two, probably Fort Irwin, the NTC, with less training acreage.
It is time that the Pentagon be budget conscious along with Congress. Our troops deserve and require the best possible training centers available, but two desert warfare training centers is a cost not justifiable. It was a good move to have a jungle training course on American soil, despite being 2,000 miles from the Pacific coast – but Fort Hood should be the only desert warfare training post that should be operational.
The money saved can purchase the latest in technology and better equipment to help our troops to do what they are trained for.