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Nonlethal encounters

Army training cadets simulate strategic maneuvers on paintball course

Posted: March 29, 2009 12:21 a.m.
Updated: March 29, 2009 4:55 a.m.

ROTC squad leader Cadet Jeremy Blenn, of the University of Southern California, left, leads away a "combative journalist" portrayed by Cadet Bob Castro, of Cal State Long Beach, as members of the Army ROTC participate in a situational training exercise at Paintball USA on Saturday.

The hills of Canyon Country stood in for Afghanistan as Army training cadets from four Southern California universities practiced their skills on a paintball course Saturday.

"The benefit is it's as close as we can get to real-world simulation," said Cal State Long Beach's cadet battalion commander Jonathan
Lopez, who added the cadets-in-training actually have shots coming at them - albeit nonlethal ones.

Junior-level cadets from the University of Southern California, UC Irvine, and California State universities Dominguez Hills and Long Beach started their drills by acting as lookouts on the course's winding trails.

They crouched low in gray and green camouflage with their paintball guns poised and their eyes focused on the surrounding hills of brush before receiving the orders for their 90-minute mission.

Lopez, a senior nursing student, said the senior cadets helped train the juniors for the Leadership Development and Assessment Course they would attend at Fort Lewis in Washington state over the summer.

"Last year at this time, we (seniors) were in Castaic park doing the same event, only I was in the dirt getting shot at," Lopez said.

"The terrain is great," Lopez said, as he stood under a mesh tent. "Afghanistan has rolling hills and mountains you would have to deal with."

The 160-acre Paintball USA course gave the cadets a chance to practice ambushing enemy hideouts, sneaking onto enemy grounds to gather information, and interacting with media and civilians, said Lt. Col. Robert Huntly, who heads the USC Trojan Battalion.

The Department of Defense recently signed a 20-year contract with Paintball USA, said Mike Schwartz, owner of the 23-year-old company.
Saturday's planned exercises included a drill with about 100 pre-selected civilians in a simulated terrorist attack.

"They're going to be the Lancaster Liberation Front," Schwartz said.

"They're going to be trying to take over and blow up the electrical towers and cut off the water supply to Los Angeles in order to try to kick California out of the United States," Schwartz said. "The army just sent their quick response team to try to stop them."


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