SPECIAL REPORT: Soldiers prepare for deployment in 'Atropia' - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

SPECIAL REPORT: Soldiers prepare for deployment in 'Atropia'

Source: Christian Piekos Source: Christian Piekos
FORT POLK, LA (KPLC) -

When soldiers deploy to a dangerous country overseas, being prepared for the worst is often the only line of defense. That vital and irreplaceable training is happening right here in Southwest Louisiana.

"It's a culminating and crucible event," said Lt. Col. Ethan Diven, squadron commander. "It requires all 400 of us to be operating on all six cylinders."

Better known by the United States Army as the Joint Readiness Training Center, or J.R.T.C. for short, this roughly three-and-a-half week rotation readies soldiers for a future deployment. 

"There are stressful interactions," Diven said. "It's also physically demanding...you are fighting by the time you enter Atropia."

You've never heard of Atropia? Well, it's a fictitious country created by the U.S. Army. Like many real-world combat deployments, soldiers parachute out of the massive C-17 Globemaster into Atropia.

"It's shock," Diven said. "It forces you to interact with the host nation population and local security forces."

Picture a Hollywood movie set created on 200,000 acres; this is Atropia, fit with its own radio station, newspaper, currency, police force, taxi service and even Atropians.

"Our job is to prioritize what the brigade commander needs to know," Diven said. "It is more important to engage with the population, the security forces, or go find those casualty-producing weapons."

Atropia is not supposed to replicate a Middle Eastern country. Rather, the "enemy" American forces are looking for fight with weapons and equipment with capabilities similar to the United States.

"It's a hybrid environment," Diven said. "You get a mix of conventional and unconventional threat."

The United States even has a fully staffed embassy in Atropia working with the local population.

Matt Daley worked as a foreign service officer for 28 years, after spending time in the secret service and following a short stint in the Army. He said coming to J.R.T.C. is vital.

"I've been able to look at this process from a variety of different angles," Daley said. "I believe it's correct to think this enriches the kinds of interactions we have with the military."

Soldiers learn to interact with the American embassy and how it can aid them while overseas.

"What can the embassy do to support them?" Diven said. "Also, what kinds of unusual restrictions a diplomatic facility may have in terms of its day-to-day operation?"

Unlike in a real fight, soldiers have the opportunity to learn from mistakes during combat in Atropia, therefore allowing them to transfer their newly gained knowledge to the battlefield.

"They won't let us fail," Diven said. "They observe our actions, the planning processes, how we respond to the enemy in the environment and they provide candid feedback."

It may seem like something straight out of a movie, but its purpose could not be more important. In war, rarely do you get do-overs.

Copyright 2017 KPLC. All rights reserved. 

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