Look inside towns set up at Army's National Training Center

A roleplayer talks with a soldier at the Army's National Training Center.
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FORT IRWIN, Calif. (KKTV) 11 News got a chance to embed with some of our soldiers from Fort Carson during their recent training at Fort Irwin, California.

Several towns are set up at the Army's National Training Center that replicate towns our soldiers would see when they are deployed overseas.

"We need to know how to train here, to where we're not causing collateral damage," said Sgt. Tyrone Marshall, who is based at Fort Irwin. "We're not destroying landmarks or mosques or sensitive things, that's why these places are so important."

For the actors, or role players, their job is very real.

"What we do is reality. We're not acting. We do whatever we feel like...because we want it to feel how the Iraqi react," said Bassan Kalasho, a role player.

About 150 role players work at Fort Irwin and are from Middle Eastern countries. They live there during their shifts.

"We're trying to teach them the culture. We're trying to interact with them so they will be more familiar with our culture and customs," said Mathana Al Mahdawi, another role player.

Kalasho is from Iraq and came to the U.S. in the 70s.

"The truth: I felt stranger in my own country because I was Christian. I've been called all the bad names," he said. "I didn't feel it was my country – when I got here, three or four years later when I became citizen, I felt that this is my country."

He interacts with the soldiers just as he would in Iraq.

"I never go out of play. The language, the culture, everything I did so they can learn – it was just like I'm in Iraq."

The towns are very realistic.

"Everything down to the smells, the rocks, the buildings; you'll see certain animals here. And all of it is very realistic and it reminded me of my two deployments to Iraq," said Marshall.

The role players spend months out of the year there, helping train Fort Carson soldiers, among many others.

"If we save one life because a mistake happened here, we can make it not happen in Iraq — they can learn from their mistake," said Kalasho.

Katie Pelton: "Why do you want to help the soldiers?"
Al Mahdawi: "To minimize the casualties from both sides -- in my original country and over here also."

"The lieutenant colonel, or whatever I dealt with that time in the rotation, he sends me an email, 'Hey I learned a lot from you. Thank you very much.' Hey, I'm appreciated by the Army, by the biggest Army in the world, the U.S. Army — what else do I want? I love it," Kalasho added. "I love it."

The role players work at Fort Irwin for about 10 months out of the year.

This is the second in a series of reports about life at Fort Irwin for Fort Carson soldiers. Click here for the first story.