2008-08-13 / Front Page

Training for the real thing

By Michael Tolzmann

Army Pfc. Joshua W. Roland is preparing for deployment to Iraq by learning from challenges presented by highly specialized American soldiers living in the Mojave Desert as Arabs. (Photo by Brian Ferguson) Training for the real thing
FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- The soldier son of a Colquitt couple will soon serve in Iraq. But to see him, you'd think he is already there. He patrols Arab villages in the desert where locals living there wear long, loose-fitting Arab clothing and scarf-like head covers. He stands among Iraqi natives as Arabic calls to prayer can be heard over loud speakers.

Army Pfc. Joshua W. Roland, son of Jeffrey and Jennifer Roland, Mayhaw Road, Colquitt, is in the Mojave Desert learning from 1,300 American soldiers functioning as "opposing forces" along with 250 Arabicspeaking Iraqis who test and challenge soldiers like Roland for the likely situations they'll face in the war zone.

Mock Arab village streets here are lined with simulated

for the real roadside bombs, along with Arab-dressed soldiers who sometimes act friendly and sometimes act like terrorists. These villages create the look and feel of being in Iraq and prepare soldiers like Roland for their service in Iraq.

Alex, 2, Valerie, Josh and Braylen, 4. There is also another child on the way.
"I have a job involving communications. We provide tactical communications for our unit. We're practicing our skills here in the desert before going to Iraq," said Roland.

Hollywood makeup artists use their industry's most convincing fake blood on amputee actors to add to the realism of simulated roadside bomb attacks by role-playing enemy insurgents. Roland takes his training here seriously with the goal of learned experiences that could help save American lives in Iraq.

"We're here to learn the skills we need to be alert and

real thing

aware of things that go on in a combat situation," said Roland.

The Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin is well suited to duplicate the natural environment in Iraq. Situated near Death Valley, the center has 1,200 square miles of nothing but desert wilderness where approximately a dozen simulated Arab villages have been built. Each village has a different look and feel, providing different situations to learn from for soldiers like Roland and his colleagues from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colo. They'll soon be walking village streets in Iraq.

"We're training in the desert where there's thick dust, and it is very hot. They have villages built that really make this place look like Iraq," said Roland.

For the moment, Roland and the others training here will interact with Arab civilians or simulated enemy combatants during this highly specialized training, but he has a traditional Army background. "I've been in the Army for about a yearand a-half," said Roland.

At first glance it may appear Roland is already in Iraq. But with the efforts of soldieractors here in an artificial environment, it is hoped the experiences learned in the Mojave Desert will help save lives in a desert land known to be lethal.

Editor's Note: In November, 2006, Joshua Roland enlisted in the United States Army. He completed nine weeks of Basic Combat Training at Fort Benning, and graduated in February 2007. After Basic Training he left for Fort Gordon, where he attended Advanced Individual Training for four months to learn the communications job he would be working with radios and things of that nature.

In June he was able to rejoin his family before heading to his first duty station.

In July 2007, Josh and his family left Georgia heading for Fort Carson, CO.

Joshua is a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat team, 4th Infantry Division. He has received two Army Achievement Medals, one for being on a funeral detail and one for a Brigade Digital Exercise. He has recently been certified to work with Fiber Optic Cabling Systems. Joshua was promoted on June 1 to Specialist Roland.

Josh and about 3,000 other soldiers are scheduled to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in September of this year.

Josh is married to Valerie, and they have two children, Braylen 4, and Alex, 2. They are expecting another baby in February of 2009.

Specialist Josha Roland is the son of Jeff and Jennifer Roland and the grandson of Billy and Jane Roland, all of Colquitt.

We wish God's protection for Josh and all of our U.S. military personnel who will be in harm's way protecting our freedoms and our way of life in these United States of America.

Return to top