Robin Sage Set to Begin Saturday
Next week future Green Berets will slip secretly into a nation fighting foreign oppressors to link with and help local guerilla forces liberate their country.
It’s all a game, but a very real game. The country is Pineland, an imaginary nation whose map overlies 15 North Carolina counties, including Moore.
The soldiers are students at Fort Bragg’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School in the final phase of the Army’s Special Forces Qualification Course — the famed “Q” course — and this deadly serious game is Robin Sage, their final training exercise before graduation and assignment to a Special Forces unit somewhere in the world.
Beginning Saturday, the exercise will send more than 100 student soldiers through two weeks of simulated deployment aimed at testing their ability to think on their feet and respond to situations modeled as closely as possible to those they will face in future deployments.
Robin Sage puts them in simulated armed conflict as Pinelanders fight invaders from Opforland to the north — an imaginary land from which opposing forces have come to overrun Pineland. While the exercise runs for two weeks, ending June 23, it is broken into segments representing scenarios that are weeks, then months apart in the imaginary history of the conflict.
It tests physical endurance, mental agility, analytical problem solving under wartime conditions. Their mission will be infiltrating areas of “Pineland” to train local guerilla forces — played by volunteers, veterans and other soldiers — improve their communication abilities and render medical aid.
Robin Sage began more than 50 years ago under other names, an early one being “Gobbler’s Woods. At one point, Southern Pines was occupied by “foreign” invaders (actually 82nd Airborne Division soldiers playing roles) who dropped onto school rooftops, stopped cars on May Street and in other ways turned the town into “occupied territory.”
It evolved into the Robin Sage exercise of today in which these Special Forces candidates work with role-players to conduct missions while living, eating and sleeping in “their” country. As a result of a tragic incident some years ago, there have been changes.
A Moore County sheriff’s deputy shot two student soldiers after stopping a suspicious truck. The two soldiers and the volunteer driver thought the traffic stop was part of their training.
In the ensuing incident, one soldier died, and the other was badly wounded. The Army and state authorities termed it a tragic accident resulting from a misunderstanding, and no charges were ever filed. Separately, a civil suit in federal court by the wounded soldier against the deputy and the county resulted in an out-of-court settlement.
Since then all vehicles used in Robin Sage bear special placards, and training soldiers wear identifying armbands even when in civilian clothes. The Army notifies law enforcement ahead of time when scenarios will take place in their areas.
“All Robin Sage movements and events have been coordinated with public safety officials throughout and within towns and counties hosting the training,” the Army says. “Residents may hear blank gunfire and see occasional flares. Controls are in place to ensure there is no risk to persons or property. Residents with concerns should contact local law enforcement officials, who will immediately contact exercise control officials.”
The following measures have been implemented:
n Formal written notification is provided to the chiefs of law enforcement agencies in the affected counties, with a follow-up visit from a unit representative.
n All civilian and nonstudent military participants are briefed on procedures to follow if there is contact with law enforcement officials.
n Students will only wear civilian clothes if the situation warrants, as determined by the instructors, and will wear a distinctive armband during these instances. Personnel role-playing as Pineland law enforcement officers wear distinctive hats and armbands, as well.
n Training areas and vehicles used during exercises are clearly labeled.
About 200 military service members from units across Fort Bragg will support the exercise in addition to civilian volunteers.
“These military members act as realistic opposing forces and guerrilla freedom fighters, also known as Pineland’s resistance movement,” the Army said. “These troops play a critical role in the training exercise.”
As they have for decades, civilian volunteers throughout the state also act as role-players to add to the realism of the exercise.
“Participation by these volunteers is crucial to the success of this training, and past trainees attest to the realism they add to the exercise,” the Army said. “We appreciate the support and consideration the citizens of North Carolina extend to the Soldiers participating in the exercise and thank them for their understanding of any inconveniences the training may cause.”
Contact John Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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