FORT HOOD — Looking through a clear shield, Pfc. Alexander Perez saw angry soldiers dressed in civilian gear, chanting and hurling Molotov cocktails past his face.
With his shoulders pressed against other soldiers in a tight formation, Perez acted instinctively as the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, conducted riot control exercises Wednesday at a Fort Hood training area.
“We’ve rehearsed it quite a few times,” Perez said. “Your adrenaline pumps a little more and your heart starts to race a little bit, but when you do it enough times, it’s really not that different. ... You just focus and do what you need to do.”
The exercise was part of training to prepare more than 400 soldiers for a deployment this summer to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt as part of the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping force.
During their nine-month deployment, soldiers will man posts and checkpoints along the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula, where they will observe and report violations of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
The peacekeeping force, which includes soldiers from 13 nations, was a result of the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords, which were signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli President Menachem Begin and President Jimmy Carter.
Soldiers in the squadron have been training for their mission along the Israeli-Egyptian border for six months at Fort Hood and during a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
“We always try to make sure they’re trained up for anything they could possibly face,” said Maj. Steven McGunegle, squadron operations officer. “We try to make sure they have all the skills to be successful.”
This week’s training focused on learning how to respond to nonlethal forces.
“Anything can be a weapon — a rock can be a weapon — and that can be just as devastating to your unit as lethal capabilities,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Wilkinson.
“(When deployed), we’re as likely to run into a lethal threat as a nonlethal threat. Our plan today was to be trained on and learn how to react to a civilian population that is unarmed but dangerous, without using lethal capabilities.”
Soldiers already gained training on cultural awareness and how to work with the Egyptian government and bedouins.
“We’ve learned that in other cultures, people approach things differently and to be cautious of religion and different people’s roles in society,” Perez said. “We don’t want to offend anyone; that’s unnecessary. So we’re going through training constantly to understand how their culture works.”
In late July, civilian academics from the Leader Development and Education for Sustained Peace will educate squadron leaders on the history of the region and the conflict between Egypt and Israel.
“They’ll talk to them specifically about the MFO mission and also about the 30-plus years of operations in the Sinai and how much it’s changed,” McGunegle said.
Perez, who will deploy for the first time, said training with experienced soldiers helps prepare for any situation he may face overseas.
“I have complete faith in this training and the instructors,” he said. “We all trust in their teaching, what they’re telling us and we’re completely confident that this (training) is going to keep us alive.”