Army Hires Actors For Live Combat Drills For decades, troops who came to Fort Irwin, Calif., to train faced fellow soldiers in live combat drills. But the Iraq war has created new job opportunities for some Americans and Iraqis as actors, role-playing in the Army's war games.
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Army Hires Actors For Live Combat Drills

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Army Hires Actors For Live Combat Drills

Army Hires Actors For Live Combat Drills

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The Iraq War has created jobs in California for some Americans and Iraqi nationals who fled their country. They're role players at Fort Irwin's National Training Center. Gina Diamante of member station KVCR has this story.

GINA DIAMANTE: For decades, troops who came to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin had to face the Op-4, members of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment who worked as an opposing force in live combat drills. But over the past few years, there's been a new element in the training — civilian role-players who add atmosphere and vital lessons.

Forty-one-year-old Cesar Garcia, a Californian native, plays a U.S. soldier whose leg had been blown off by an improvised explosive device, or IED.

Mr. CESAR GARCIA: I really like this part 'cause it's more intense.

(Soundbite of explosion and screaming)

DIAMANTE: Garcia's face, his uniform and the stump of his leg are covered in blood. The blood is a special effect; the missing leg is not. Garcia's leg was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident when he was in his 20s and after years of odd jobs from welding to fixing computers, and a series of health complications, he had the leg amputated five years ago.

Mr. GARCIA: Once I had my leg amputated, I didn't know what to do. Computers — yes it's easy sitting down, but I don't like sitting down all day.

DIAMANTE: Garcia worked for a while at a base in Texas, and then was recruited to join the team at Fort Irwin. The role-players teach soldiers how to retrieve, triage and evacuate wounded Americans and Iraqi citizens from an urban battle zone.

Unidentified Man: Let's go, move.

DIAMANTE: In war, mistakes can be deadly, but here, trainees get guidance from Leonard Bryant, a role-player who's also a former Army medic.

Mr. LEONARD BRYANT (Role-Player, Former Army Medic): It really takes a lot of soul-searching, because it looks easy but it's not. There's a lot of emotions involved.

DIAMANTE: Bryant's been out of the military for 21 years. Now, he spends about two weeks a month being made-up with fake injuries, acting the part of a wounded soldier.

Mr. BRYANT: This is the best job I've ever had in my life.

(Soundbite of explosion)

DIAMANTE: Hundreds of civilians are paid to populate the two Iraqi cities and 12 villages that are spread across Fort Irwin's 1,200 square miles of desert.

(Soundbite of yelling)

DIAMANTE: One of the three private contractors providing the role-players for this rotation is Global Tactical Training, or GTT. Halee, a former Iraqi solider who would only give his first name, is now a manager for GTT. His duties include role-playing with U.S. soldiers and teaching in the classroom. He says he has slowly gained their trust.

HALEE (Former Iraqi Soldier, Manager, GTT): I did a lot of culture classes, and they started taking the advices we showed them and we teach them seriously.

DIAMANTE: Several of the actors said they're on a mission. Former medic Leonard Bryant says his work helps save lives, even when his own character doesn't survive.

Mr. BRYANT: Unfortunately, on this last run, I didn't make it. You know, but I live to die, so it's a wonderful thing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DIAMANTE: For NPR News, I'm Gina Diamante at Fort Irwin, California.

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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