Portales native serves as mock insurgent
DOD photo: Benjamin Faske Army Spec. Cory R. Gonzales is a member of 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment located in Hohenfels, Germany, at the Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center. He functions as an enemy insurgent, or known within the Army as an opposing force, or OPFOR.
HOHENFELS, Germany – As American soldiers enter a village here, they are approached by bearded men with turbans and women with burqas covering their faces. The soldiers do not know who is friend or who is foe.
The son of two Portales residents is serving in Hohenfels, Germany, where fictitious Arab villages have been built with actors roaming about, giving it the look and feel of being in a war zone. The actors are supporting a mission to train American, NATO and allied soldiers on how to deal with unknown situations that are sure to face those who go to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Army Spc. Cory R. Gonzales, son of Cindy Romero and Marty Gonzales, both of Portales, is a member of 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment located here at the Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center. He functions as an enemy insurgent, known within the Army as an opposing force, or OPFOR.
“We are here to conduct battle-simulated attacks against other units that come to Hohenfels to get them better trained for deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo, by using the knowledge I have gained from my time in the war zone and sharing it with them,” said Gonzales, a 2004 graduate of Broad Horizons Education Center, which used to operate in Portales.
With the rat-tat-tat of AK-47 assault rifles echoing through the village here, the OPFOR insurgents challenge soldiers who treat this war-gaming situation as a real-life evaluation.
Allied soldiers and insurgents alike have rifles equipped with laser systems that allow for the exchange of gunfire. Everyone wears a laser receptor system that will give off a loud shrill if they are shot. The goal is for soldiers heading to the war zone to learn from potential combat pitfalls here rather than making the mistakes on the battlefield.
“This training is important because it provides many possible scenarios that can happen downrange, and gives them a chance to learn from their mistakes,” Gonzales said.
Some of the actors here are hired civilians who dress and play the part of Arabs living in a village, while others, such as Gonzales, are American soldiers who are trained in tactics used by insurgents. Combined with villages that could typify a real town in Iraq or Afghanistan, a look and feel of being in the war zone is achieved.
“The German civilians who play the part of Iraqi and Afghan civilians are good because they speak German, and most American soldiers don’t, so it brings them the training of using interpreters and communicating through another person to explain what they are saying,” Gonzales said.
For Gonzales, serving here in support of this teaching facility is one of many experiences found within the military so far.
“I have been in the Army for four years. I have served two tours of eight months each in Afghanistan. I plan to gain more rank and retire at the age of 40,” Gonzales said.
Although a soldier serving in the U.S. Army, Gonzales understands the importance of some soldiers here wearing a uniform that appears much like what is worn by an enemy in Afghanistan or Iraq. And by doing so is helping his comrades in arms learn the difference between friend and foe.