Playing OPFOR

Monday, June 27th, 2011

A former infantry soldier who was stationed at the Ft. Irwin National Training Center tells his tales of playing OPFOR against visiting units:

Our units would spend two weeks every month living in small towns and dressing up in Arabic attire. We would all be assigned families, names and job titles. Only a hand-full of us would be enemy combatants though. Roughly 60% were civilians. When the soldiers would come through on random patrols/searches, it was our job to deceive them, test them, teach them customs (which we were taught) and mainly point out their weaknesses by engaging them in fire-fights, blowing up their convoys, and trying to sneak into their bases (so freaking fun).

There were also Iraqi interpretors who lived alongside us (women, men, no children) who mostly traveled from San Diego. They were paid very well from what I hear. However, they never played the role of terrorist and were just there to provide us with working knowledge of the culture, as well as to provide a more realistic environment for the units who were training against us. I’ve trained with special forces, SEALs and many, many units who have come through. Some of the best times and most fun I’ve ever had in my life happened out in those towns.

Also, do you want to to know the true definition of camping? LOL. To me, that’s when we would be assigned roles as a sniper team, and were told that BLUEFOR (the soldiers) would be coming into town for a few hours to patrol. Wake up at 6am, grab your weapon, MRE, water and sneak into a 3 story building without being scene by choppers or scouts. Wait 5 hours, every few minutes peeking out the window to see if they’ve arrived. Keep smelling your buddies farts permeate the dusty 100 degree room that you’re sharing with him. Wait until the patrol has moved into town and set up. Give it just a few more minutes of silence, just when the soldiers think that everything is cool, and then open fire from a dark room. Pop off as many rounds as possible without giving away your presence and then hi-tail it out of there once you’ve realized you’ve been compromised. Try to make it out the back of the building – jump in an F-150 and speed the fuck out of there before being cornered by 3 bradleys. Man, I miss it.

Here he tells his best story:

I was given this role along with another guy one time to try and enter their base and kill them. That was like, not really done before – but they were always thinking of new missions for us. Our towns would usually be about 10-15 miles away from their bases. My friend and I got up at 6am and were driven in an F-150 truck out to a road and dropped off about 500 meters from their entrance. It was like 100 degrees in the middle of summer, and we had never really been trained on sniper tactics (we were just infantrymen). So, I guess just from watching a lot of movies and playing Operation Flashpoint and BF2 we did our best.

We slowly crawled, inch by inch, 400 meters on our stomachs for 2 hours on the hot desert sand into their FOB (forward operating base). Pretty much .. it’s where that unit was set up in the desert. Barbed wire parameter, white tents – all of their medic tents, chow tents, weapons, sleeping tents were in this little city. We snuck in, stole their weapons, went into their HQ (radio tent, headquarters) aimed our rifles at them all (since they werent expecting to be killed, they had no laser gear on) so we said “You’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead.’

We hear an alarm go off and we hid behind a humvee while all the soldiers cluster fucked around, running and screaming “wtf is going on?!” -”You’re dead, you’re dead.” Eventually we were captured and detained in the back of a bradley for about 3 hours. The rules were that if we were ever captured, we could only be held for a day and then returned to our town. Our roles would be changed, or we wouldn’t be allowed to play as bad-guy again for that rotation because they’d already seen our faces.

Well… someone forgot that we were there. For 3 hours we just sat in the heat with no water. Eventually we said “fuck this shit.” and planned our escape. It was like… some units didn’t take this training very seriously – and complacency kills. So, Brian and I decided to steal their weapons again and actually LEAVE their base with them and return to our town. We knew that this was… really role playing and kind of straying from the scope of our roles. But, being young dumb 21 year old grunts we had nothing better to do.

We snuck out of the bradley and went into one of their tents where they had their M-4s just laying on a table. We grabbed 1 each and snuck our way through the base until we reached the barbed wire. I forgot how we managed to get through them, but we made our way out and crawled another 400 meters to the road. We flagged down a guy in our town and we went back. I think I was expected to be chewed the fuck out for stealing their weapons, but we were actually escorted infront of our CO and 1SGT and commended for thinking “outside the box”.

The next day a patrol came through and raided our entire town looking for the weapons. Our CO – 1SG and XO did not play OPFOR with us – they remained a referee between us and the units. My 1SG walked out with the two M-4s and approached their CO and said something like, “Next time, don’t let your soldiers put their weapons down”. – which is what you’re trained even in Basic. Always know where your weapon is, don’t leave it.

I enjoyed his “special mission” story:

One night, after a two week training mission when we were about to pack up to head back to base, we get told we’d have a “special” mission at around mid-night. Normally we would all be given roles to play, ie: My name is Akbar Majdeen and I’m a part of Family x and I’m a sheep herder (secret bomb maker). It would be up to the unit we’re role-playing with to determine who is a threat, and who knows what. Yet, since we had just finished our two week training, we didn’t know who the hell we were supposed to play against at midnight.

We were pretty much told, “Go up to your rooms and wait. When it happens, you’ll know.” Ooook? … cool. So I go upstairs and we have our weapons. At around 12am we all figure nothing is going to happen (typical Army shit – Hurry up and wait). So I decide to bust out my cot and go to sleep. Shut my eyes for a bit and then I hear a clink – clink a few feet in front of me. Open my eyes and BOOM. A fucking flash bang grenade goes off. My vision turns white, ears start ringing – some sight comes back but everything is wobbly and fuzzy.

A silhouette of 6 figures comes running up the staircase and we’re told “GET THE FUCK DOWN”. As I reach for my M-4 I get pushed against a wall and kneed in the gut. I’m on my knees and my hands are then zip-tied behind my back. Myself and about 7 other guys are escorted downstairs and placed against the walls. All I could see was two teams of 6 guys, big guys – tall, built dudes with some high-tech gear. Cameras mounted to their kevlar helmets, ballistic side-arms – tactical gear.

One of them starts demanding, “Who the hell is your leader!?” (we’ll… see.. the thing is we weren’t given roles this time. We had no idea who we were supposed to be). After a stagnant silence, one of the guys grabs my friend and puts him against a wall and makes him crouch. It was some type of stress position. Nothing worked, he didn’t crack because he didn’t know anything. And then, suddenly, everyone stops talking and one of the big ass dudes says, (I’ll never forget this) “Ok guys, thanks for playing. One team, one mission.” And all 12 of them exit the small building located in the middle of no-where (200 miles in the desert). We quickly stand up and run outside to see them.

At 2am, in the pitch dark these guys simply disappear. No sound of a chopper. No sound of any vehicles. No sight of them at all. Soon we all gather around the center of town and someone says, “Who the fuck..”. Our CO comes out and says, “SEALS.”

The SEALs were quiet, fast – operated on their own terms. They were completely… unconventional in every aspect.

In other parts of the mock town, SEALS did encounter resistance from other soldiers playing roles. Gotta look at it from my perspective though. Just spent 2 weeks in the desert training non-stop. Usually 5am – 1am every day. Out of no-where on our last day we’re told to stay for some “surprise” mission. At some point in the night, after hearing and seeing nothing – and not knowing what to expect, I crashed the fuck out.

If it was anyone other than SEALS/Spec Ops we would have most likely heard them. I was expecting choppers, Bradley’s, tanks – something loud… an attack/ambush. No where in my wildest dreams did we expect spec-ops. They were so silent and fast that it didn’t matter. One of the SEALS did “die” in the tunnels below the city in a fire-fight. The entire fight in the city lasted about an hour between 60+ enemies and like… 12-20? SEALS (not sure on the number). My “family” however was in a 2 story building, and 2 guys were pulling guard while me and another person slept. Still didn’t matter if I was awake or not. I wouldn’t have seen or heard them come up those steps anyway. Pretty quiet for such huge fucking guys. Every one of them was at least 6’0+

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