Fake Iraqi village staffed by actual Iraqis


I'm in Texas, doing some research on integrating wind power into the electric grid, and Department of Defense efforts to make military buildings more energy efficient. My host for the last few days has been Amanda Kim Stairrett, military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Besides keeping me off the streets, Amanda has helpfully provided a lot of interesting insight into life at Fort Hood, and military culture in general. One interesting tidbit: The existence of Phantom Run—a mock-up of an Iraqi village used to train soldiers.

Put together with the help of professional set designers, the site's realism is enhanced by fake rocket explosions and—on the more surreal side—actual Iraqis role-playing as Iraqi insurgents, non-combatants and military personnel. The goal, Amanda says, is to get soldiers used to life in a complicated combat zone so that, when they deploy, they're better prepared for culture shock and making careful, life-saving decisions under stress.

Who are the Iraqi cosplayers? Often, they're people who worked as translators for the military in their home country, and have since come to the United States as refugees. Now, their job is pretending to be back home.

Image of Phantom Run village detail from larger shot taken by Herald photographer Steven Doll.