FORT POLK, LA - Fort Polk was the scene of a large scale exercise this weekend to train soldiers for what they could expect when deployed overseas. American troops have been pulled from Iraq, but the fight in Afghanistan continues.
The unit of soldiers at Fort Polk experienced what their leaders hope will be worse than anything they face in battle. They traveled through five makeshift Afghan cities, with their fourth stop being in the town of Marghoz.
Once a month, soldiers at Fort Polk experience this lane training, a realistic travel through Afghan cities facing challenges in a fight to survive. Civilians, including some Afghanistan natives, dressed as town people.
Sixty-one-year old Cynthia Thomas serves as a widow in the village.
"Helping out with the younger people that come through our lanes, that we train, it gives me enjoyment," said Thomas. "Like a parent, I'm their other mother. We take care of them and look out for them and we train them to the best of our ability so that they can survive when they go to war."
The lane training is made as realistic as possible. Throughout the wooded areas of Fort Polk, you'll find several make-shift cities similar to what the troops will encounter overseas. Each city holds a different surprise.
Soldiers first entered the Afghan town of Marghoz and were faced with a simulated suicide bomber.
The unit dealt with chaos, first treating the wounded, including village people, Afghan police and some of their own.
Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach participated in the event as a citizen of Marghoz. He walked the streets dressed in garb witnessing the explosions and actions of the troops. It was his first time witnessing and participating in the training.
"It really makes me just respect and appreciate the job that they're doing and continue to do in all these years that these young men and women have been engaged in these types of conflicts all over the world," said Roach. "It makes you really appreciate their sacrifice and their experience all the more."
As the unit left the village, they faced a roadside bomb. The simulated explosion came from a truck parked on the side of the road.
The unit went under simulated fire again, letting them know to get out of the area as quickly as possible.
Mayor Roach says that all Congress men and women should at least witness the combat training before passing a vote on overseas activity. He says it's important to equip the troops properly, but it's important for citizens to do their part as well.
"At the end of the day, also, the importance of supporting them in every way that we can," said Roach. "Supporting their families, because of what they're experiencing and their sacrifices that they're making and what they're doing for our country. My hat is off to them and God be with them."
The families of soldiers at Fort Polk were allowed to experience the training through a tour and gun demonstration. These box tours are held once a month and are available to the public. To sign up for a tour, click here.