Hollywood is known for imagery that transports the television or movie audience into the middle of a battlefield in all of its gory splendor. Those same special effects, however, are used to provide an element of realism to the training of Soldiers and medics.

In the military, this technique is called moulage – a French word that means “to fabricate.”

Alyssa Morgan, moulage captain, is the special effects wizard for the Multi-echelon Integrated Brigade Training exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, which will be ongoing through June 24. She owns a special effects company in Los Angeles with several music videos and television episodes on its resume and has performed moulage for the military since 2008.

“It is more rewarding than TV,” she said. “We get to help people with training. What I do has become a crucial piece of training for medics.”

Morgan said she has seen the evolution of moulage and its effect on training over the years. Nearly 10 years ago, medics were presented a card that outlined a “patient’s” symptoms and possibly a blood-stained bandage wrapping the appendage to make their diagnosis. Today, through the use of moulage, they actually see a wound and have to physically treat it as though it were real.

“It helps mentally prepare them for what they may see on the battlefield,” she said.

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That could save precious seconds of hesitation when time may be the dearest commodity.

Visual realism is not something that can be accomplished overnight in the quantities needed to simulate a battlefield, however. Preparation for the exercise takes place weeks in advance.

“They’re all handmade to look as realistic as possible,” she said. “Everything was made before I got here.”

For the MiBT, Morgan was told to create 157 individual wounds. The type of wound must be planned, and each application molded, frozen and rehydrated to be ready for application.

“It takes several hours for each step,” she said. “It was about a week of work (to actually make the applications).”

On site, however, it moves at a much quicker pace.

“Each injury takes about 10 minutes to apply and dress,” Morgan said. “The prosthetics are like a temporary tattoo for children.”

The applications are placed and the backing removed to make them stick. Then, it is dressed with makeup and blood to add another element of visual realism as well as urgency to the look.

Fortunately for the role player, it’s fake.

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“It doesn’t hurt as much as it looks like it does. It’s really fun,” said Blase Thoorsell, who is role playing as a civilian wounded on the battlefield during an engagement.

The moulage team is supporting the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team and other units of the Mississippi National Guard, active Army, and U.S. Army Reserve during the exercise.

Collectively, approximately 4,500 Army and Air personnel are participating in the joint exercise. The 155th ABCT is benefiting from lessons learned by the 1st Cavalry Division during a 2015 National Training Center rotation. The MiBT will help prepare the 155th for its own trip to the NTC at Fort Irwin, Calif., in 2017.

The partnership between Mississippi’s 155th and the active Army 1st CAV is one of the strongest Active/Guard partnerships in the U.S. Army. Approximately 3,000 MSARNG Soldiers traveled from their home state to Fort Hood to participate in the brigade-level exercise. The 155th is one of two Army National Guard fully modernized brigade combat teams in the U.S. Army and is headquartered in Tupelo, Miss., with battalion headquarters throughout the state.

 

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