For most of American history, the military has been tasked with defending our national interests abroad, taking the fight to the enemy while America’s law enforcement infrastructure, comprised of multiple local, state and federal agencies, handle domestic threats. The roles of these disparate groups, however, do align from time to time, as some of our nation’s opponents on the international stage aim to take the fight into our nation’s interior, and as the line between terror group and organized crime syndicate begins to blur.
With these ever-evolving threats from terror groups, criminal organizations, and increasingly, nation states that may employ unconventional efforts to cripple America’s mainland infrastructure on their minds, the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division is currently amid a training evolution at the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico. This time, however, they aren’t preparing for the possibility of fighting a war on foreign soil, but rather to deploy in support of local guard units and law enforcement to defend, and if necessary, re-take, important elements of America’s infrastructure.
We’ve got that 24-hour response time, it doesn’t matter that we’re not an airborne unit. We’re light infantry, we’re a Mountain Division, and we can be anywhere in the world, and we’ve got to be ready for that,” said Spc. Moses Negron, a rifle team leader with 10th Mountain Division, who deployed to WSMR for the Vigilant Shield exercise.
Soldiers are participating in a variety of training scenarios intended to prepare them to rapidly deploy to, and then defend, the facilities America relies on in their daily lives. Patrols, security sweeps, and even mock interactions with people posing as lost hunters and the like allow the soldiers an opportunity to experience what it might be like if they found themselves serving as the last line of defense between keeping America’s lights on, and our nation’s enemies gaining control of the power grid.
In another training cycle, Soldiers were tasked with retaking a facility from a “disgruntled security force.”
Soldiers and civilian guards faced off, fighting against each other using blank ammunition, making for an energetic engagement that gave the Soldiers a chance to do detailed training on close-in combat in mountainous and urban terrain. The scenario saw several WSMR guards play an opposing force that represented a small group of radicalized or disgruntled individuals already inside the facility, requiring the Soldiers to assault the facility and neutralize the threat.” The Army wrote in a press release.
The White Sands Missile Range already offers a number of buildings surrounded by an external wall that was previously used for Network Integration Evaluation, but now serve as a reasonable facsimile for the type of secure facility the Soldiers may be tasked with defending or capturing from hostile forces. It also offered the Soldiers a very different climate than the one they’ve grown accustomed to at Fort Drum, which is an important part of preparing for rapid deployments to varied regions around the world.
This is something that puts us into a new location, takes use out of cold desolate Fort Drum and puts us in a new spot,” said Capt. Andrew Boyle, company commander of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry, 10th Mountain Division. “It allows the Soldiers to train in a desert atmosphere and apply some of those battle drills in something different.”
The soldiers of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division will continue to train for the possibility of responding to domestic threats until November 9th, when they return to Fort Drum.
Images courtesy of the U.S. Army