Soldiers headed to Philippines train in Lake area - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Soldiers headed to Philippines train in Lake Area

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Members of the Army's 97th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Bragg have been in Southwest Louisiana, conducting a training exercise to prepare members to deploy to the Philippines in the coming months.

Part of their training includes participating in a face-to-face news conference with angry citizens and confrontational news media.

The fake scenario, held at the Calcasieu Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, put soldiers in a hornets nest -- so to speak. 

They were ambushed by reporters about their involvement in a car crash which left at least one dead.

The scenario included the following exchanges: 

Reporter: I received from a very reliable source that you all had just left a drinking establishment. Is that true?

Soldier: I assure you ma'am, that is not true. 

Reporter: What were you doing that caused you to run over this person? I heard that you may have been texting and driving? Is that true?

Soldier: No ma'am. I don't text and drive. I don't even have a cell phone on me.

Then, as part of the training exercise, fake Philippine protesters, carrying signs and shouting, show up at the scene.

Commander Lieutenant Colonel Dan Laseria said such training will help them deal with real situations.

"The purpose of the exercise that we conducted over the last four days is to prepare and more importantly, validate our, the members of our unit. In this particular case, a company out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, that is preparing to deploy to the Republic of the Philippines here in approximately two to three months," said Laseria.

Despite hostile protestors and media, battalion members who critiqued them were generally pleased with their ability to remain calm under fire. 

Calcasieu OHSEP Director Dick Gremillion said the training exercise has been in the works for several months.

"It gives them the opportunity to get out in the real world and have some real world experiences. A lot of what they do, the civil affairs team, is similar to what we do in emergency management. They're a liaison between the military and civilian governments in the countries they go into," said Gremillion.

The training is done from time to time to help Civil Affairs soldiers maintain their skills and remain prepared for deployments around the world.

Civil Affairs Units support military commanders by working with civil authorities and civilians during peacetime, contingency and war time operations.

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