HOHENFELS, Germany — Fort Hood soldiers conducted riot control and fire phobia training scenarios with multinational forces during a rotation at Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, from Jan. 13-31.
Fort Hood’s 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade and 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion participated in the three-week rotation before their deployment to Kosovo in support of Operation Joint Guardian.
Col. Chuck Hensley, 504th brigade commander, said the mission while deployed would be to facilitate a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement in the Multinational Battle Group-East area. He added that the training at Hohenfels was beneficial in helping leaders understand that goal.
“The training has been very successful in helping us meet our training objectives,” Hensley said. “(The training center) has done a very good job in continually challenging us and making sure that the training is as realistic as possible.”
The center challenged soldiers in various situations they could face while deployed to Kosovo. Two training events that were highlighted were crowd riot control, where soldiers engaged angry mobs, and fire phobia training, which involved having Molotov cocktails thrown at them. The medical battalion had their hands full as well, with training for mass casualty events and dealing with real world injuries sustained from the intense training.
Although a riot hasn’t happened in the Kosovo region recently, Hensley said, crowd riot control training is an important point at the center because it’s a task U.S. soldiers aren’t familiar with and could be called on to perform while deployed.
“Some of these units will be going to Kosovo to possibly deal with the real thing,” said Sgt. 1st. Class Jermanie Trevillion, a lane instructor for the training center. “We want to give them this essential training that is needed to be successful to accomplish a mission and make sure they have everything they need in their tool bag.”
Although it was training, the events could easily been mistaken as the real thing. Role-players hurled foam rocks wrapped in duct tape, rolled smoking tires, and charged the line, throwing their bodies at full force against the shields testing the capabilities of the troops in training.
“We take (rioters) and make them aggressive so the rotational training unit can react like any other civil disturbance or any other riot that you would see,” Trevillion said.
He added the soldiers and multinational forces used techniques they learned to help control the madness of the rioters while also completing their mission, but a riot wouldn’t be complete though without one main ingredient mixed into the chaos: a Molotov cocktail.
“Every time that you are working in CRC and there is rioters, one of the worst tasks you have to perform is reacting to a cocktail,” said Portuguese Army 1st Sgt. Nuno Meves, fire phobia training lane instructor. “Usually the rioters lose to physical efforts, so they have to resort to something else, which in most cases is the Molotov cocktail and it can create problems for us.”
Standing side by side, soldiers took turns having gasoline-filled cocktails thrown at their feet and being set on fire. Soldiers first trained with water bottles so they could practice techniques that would help dissipate the flames and move them through the fire. The techniques included going into a protective posture when they spotted a cocktail, stomping their feet while moving forward and waving their riot shields after the cocktail exploded near them.
“It takes a lot of training so that’s why we have to start with cold training using water bottles,” Meves said. “This is a very specific task you have to perform in a real situation so you have to be well prepared.”
Completing these tasks isn’t the everyday norm for these soldiers, Meves added. Having to deal with a rioting crowd throwing cocktails and other items is completely different from the usual combat tasks these soldiers are used to.
“It’s very hard to train this situation because all the (soldier’s) senses tell them when they are on fire to run away. So we have to fight that and we have to keep them focused,” Meves said.
Each situation brought unique challenges with them but U.S. and multinational forces took on the training at hand and effectively learned new skill sets. With the rotation behind them, the soldiers can now turn their attention to Operation Joint Guardian and, hopefully, not have to employ any of the new skills they’ve learned.