Graduate School of Warfare

General Petraeus: And I'll take just the example at the National Training Center out in the Mohave Desert at Fort Irwin, California. Again, pre-9/11 really up until just, say, two and a half years ago or so, what was done in the National Training Center was sort of a monthly refighting of Desert Storm. Typically in a two-week rotation, you fight a battle about every other day. There was the clash of the Titans in the central corridor and then re-do it again two days later, you know, offense, defense, delay, meeting engagement, you name it. They were kinetic. It was a sterile battlefield relatively. There were no civilians on that battlefield. There weren't villages. It was desert. And you went at it.

So now what?

It is vastly different now...no-let-up, complex, very difficult counterinsurgency environment.

Petraeus: We've added villages out there. There are about 12 of them, and dependent on how you draw the circle for the box in which you're going to conduct that rotation — typically get 9 to 11 of those — those villages are populated by hundreds of real Iraqis. Yeah, they're Iraqi-Americans, but they are Iraqis or Afghan-Americans. If we're moving up into the hills, we have an Afghan scenario complete with caves dug into the mountains out there. Again, those of you have been out there know it's pretty mountainous as well.

But those Iraqi-Americans replicate — this is like putting on a minor, you know, epic drama out there once a month. In fact, we actually have on the consulting staff some folks from Hollywood, of all things, or Los Angeles area, that help carry this out and helped us refine the roles for some — somewhere around 2000, because we augment the several hundred Iraqi or Afghan role players with about 1500 of our own soldiers who are based out at Fort Irwin from the 11th Armored Regiment that just returned from Iraq within the last six months of so and very experienced at this and, you know, all of the old veterans out here — hold on to your hat. But we actually allow them to grow beards during the course of the rotations. You know, we're very — you know, you can start here and you end here. (Laughter)

Petraeus: But, I mean, we do allow — this is a military organization. We do allow them to grow beards. They strap on suicide vests. They drive suicide car bombs. They will replicate host nation security forces, other civilians, business — you name it — again, to augment those role players who will only speak in their language. You must use translators with them. And, again, it is absolutely realistic to the point where if you woke up out there in the morning and were a little bit disoriented, I think you would actually think in — we've some that did — that, boy, I'm right back in Anbar Province or wherever it might be.

Simulation. It's a critical aspect of any sort of training. Ed Schools almost never simulate. There's discussion. Maybe a bit of non-authentic role play with your 23-year-old partners. And then there's student teaching, which is not simulation, but the "real thing"...real kids in real classes.

This year we tried a new type of simulation. I'll write about it tomorrow.