Operation Enduring Freedom: 'The Shoot House'

By Mark Geary, Reporter

CAMP SHELBY – Iowa National Guard soldiers will be in situations in Afghanistan that will force them to make life and death decisions in a matter of seconds.

While at Camp Shelby, soldiers participate in a training exercise known as "The Shoot House." It's a structure that contains about a half dozen rooms without any ceilings. Troops enter each room in the facility with their weapons drawn. If they see a cut out photo of an enemy combatant, soldiers shoot to kill.

"It's second nature. You just go in, do your job and deal with the consequences after that," Sergeant First Class Steve Beireis of the HHC 1-133rd and from North Liberty said.

A second of hesitation could put troops in danger. That's why they practice this exercise over and over.

"I looked like I was falling apart the first time I tried it. Once you get it down, especially with the same people, it's a lot easier," Private First Class Erik McDonald of the HHC 1-133rd and from Iowa City said.

But, acting too fast could put innocent people in danger. Inside some rooms, a photo of a friendly Afghan family greets soldiers instead of the enemy.

"You never know what environment you're going to get caught up in," Beireis said.

The repetition of the exercise builds confidence and erases fear.

"To be able to work as a team and have trust is a big thing. It's a key thing. If you can't trust the guy in front of you and the guy behind you, it's not going to work out in our favor," First Lieutenant Justin Foote of the HHC 1-133rd and from New Hartford said.

"It comes to the point where you do it long enough and it's automatic and you just act," Beireis said.

By the time soldiers reach the last room, stress turns into smiles.

"I thought it was a blast. It was good training," McDonald said.

During the first portion of training at "The Shoot House," soldiers fire blanks. But, soldiers use live rounds in the final phase. After completing the training, Iowa National Guard members should be able to face a real life situation like this in Afghanistan.

Troops who have recently come back from Afghanistan and Iraq oversee the training and give soldiers tips and techniques.
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