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Soldiers Read Village Like A Book
by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kulani J. Lakanaria - May 17, 2013

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FORT POLK, La. – What if deployed soldiers could look at a village and read its atmosphere, its attitudes, identify the key people, and predict behaviors, without stepping one foot into it. 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) soldiers are learning how to do this in the Advance Situational Awareness Training or ASAT course.

This five-day training program, conducted the first week of May at Fort Polk, La., is designed to improve soldiers' ability to identify indicating dynamics in human beings and their environments before an event happens.

U.S. Soldiers with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, keep their eyes on the objective from an observation post during Advanced Situational Awareness Training at Fort Polk, La., May 4, 2013. Soldiers of 10th Mountain Division used a wide variety of optics to detect insurgent activity in a mock village. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kulani J. Lakanaria)
U.S. Soldiers with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, keep their eyes on the objective from an observation post during Advanced Situational Awareness Training at Fort Polk, La., May 4, 2013. Soldiers of 10th Mountain Division used a wide variety of optics to detect insurgent activity in a mock village. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kulani J. Lakanaria)

“ASAT is a tool to help soldiers read their environment and people,” said Staff Sgt. Jimmy L. Schumacher, an instructor writer with 2nd Battalion, 29 Infantry Regiment, 197th Infantry Brigade from Fort Benning, Ga. “In the Army, all our battle drills are reactive; like react to contact and react to an ambush. We want to get Soldiers to start reading indicators to see the ambush before it happens. I can maneuver on an ambush when I read the indicators and become an attacking force instead of a reacting one.”

This concept is known as “staying left of the bang.”

“In (roadside bomb) lanes the Army traditionally teach soldiers to look for the actual round,” Schumacher said. “We teach them to look for components and small indicators that normally get overlooked. We teach soldiers how to stay left of bang.”

ASAT allows soldiers to read human behavior both on and off the battlefield.

“It works everywhere,” Schumacher said. “People are the same and that's what we teach. You can't change human body language. You ask a kid in the U.S., China or Africa how old they are they'll hold up fingers to show you. We learn how to say no and yes the same way. You can't hide it or change it. Stateside or overseas, Afghanistan or Iraq, you see the same indicators. If someone's up to something you can pick it up if you know what you're looking for.”

Soldiers from many different jobs and backgrounds within the brigade attended the ASAT course.

“I would recommend this course to all soldiers in 4/10,” said 2nd Lt. Samuel I. Burns, a student at the ASAT course with Headquarters Headquarters Company, 94th Brigade Support Battalion. “I've used this type of training outside of my military experience. It could save your life.”

“With todays Army you get a lot of different MOSs on the battlefield,” Schumacher said. “Not just infantry, even for people staying on the [forward operating base] these skills come in handy. Soldiers will interact with locals whether it is on the FOB or in the villages. They can help prevent insider attacks or report suspicious activity. On patrols it helps you articulate incidents so you can put it on paper and explain why you detained that person.”
“I've really enjoyed the course, and I've learned a lot,” Said Specialist Janice C. Middleton, an intelligence analyst with Alpha Company, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion. “In the future I want to see if I can get into the 22 day instructor course. I can see this being very beneficial.”

Currently deployed Soldiers have contacted ASAT instructors explaining how much the course impacts their missions. “We've learned that the program is very successful,” Schumacher said. “Forward deployed soldiers who took earlier classes have told me that they had been very productive in their environments. They have been picking up the clues and making connections with people. They are hemming a lot of bad guys up and ultimately saving a lot of lives.”

By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kulani J. Lakanaria
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2013

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