Real world training in a simulated setting

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael Washburn
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Training is an important part of military life. Training can help with job proficiency, physical fitness tests or even firing a weapon. For those in specific career fields, such as D-M's pararescuemen, training can mean the difference between life and death. In order for the PJ's and other special operations teams from around the world to receive training in real life scenarios, they turn to the Playas Training and Research Facility located in Playas, New Mexico. D-M recently sent some Airmen to Playas to participate in a plethora of training scenarios as part of the annual Angel Thunder training exercise here Oct. 19-21.

Playas was once a mining town, but when the mines dried up, the town was abandoned. It is now a facility government agencies and military branches can utilize to practice military scenarios and training exercises.

What makes Playas so great for special operations units is the realism to the type of missions and real-world situations that are currently going on overseas. The simulated areas on playas are very authentic to their real world counterparts.

Scenarios such as evasion in a mountainous environment, hostage rescues and mass casualty scenarios, all of which could be actual operations in our deployed environments, are run out of the facility.

"The way the different areas around the facility are set is very similar to where we deploy," said Capt. Kevin Kirby, 48th Rescue Squadron chief of standards and evaluations, and the Playas ground command officer. "This keeps everyone in that mindset and helps us keep our senses sharp which allows us to react to whatever scenario we're thrown into. It also helps with keeping us current and qualified with our capabilities."

The different areas of Playas can also be altered to suit the needs of the individuals training. Maybe the Border Patrols tactical team wants to practice breach and clear missions on one of the vacant houses. Or maybe PJ's want to practice helicopter extractions in the middle of a residential street.

"The facility can be morphed into anything the trainees need," said Capt. Richard Barnes, Detachment 1-22 Training Squadron commander. "There are different areas of the city. One area is for training, you can blow in doors, jump through window, whatever you want to do. While other portions of the city are for administrative requirements. There's even housing so people can come out here and live, eat, sleep and train 24-7."

At Playas, realism is key. During one of the exercises, BORTAC had to execute a hostage rescue mission. The hostages were being held in an "Afghan town" outside of the main training facility. The whole town was built to look exactly like a city in Afghanistan. Everything is as authentic as possible, down to the rugs in the rooms. Even the individuals playing the operational force are dressed in Afghan clothing. Some of the people are actual Afghans themselves.

"Playas has role players who actually live in Afghanistan," said Master Sgt. Scott Carmack, 563rd Operations Support Squadron weapons and tactics superintendent. "They live here for weeks at a time. They even have their own hierarchy like they would in Afghanistan."

The types of missions that are practiced at Playas are directly affected by the operations going on overseas. And for new members of any team, it's a great way to practice before a real life mission.

"We have brand new PJ's who have just gotten to the unit," Sergeant Carmack said. "For them to participate in this exercise before they deploy is critical."

The type of training available at Playas is beneficial for everyone. For those who often deploy overseas, the training is second to none.

"In the grand scheme of things, it's great training," Sergeant Carmack said. "The city we train in here is just like the cities over there. When we're out in the desert or in the villages, it's just like over in Afghanistan, so it's very advantageous for our guys."