Role-playing to save American lives

Roseville man part of Army’s training program for troops heading for war-torn Iraq
By: Michael Tolzmann Special to The Press-Tribune
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FORT IRWIN – At first glance, the son of a Roseville couple looks nothing like what you’d expect of an American soldier. He wears long, loose-fitting Arab clothing, a scarf-like head cover, grows facial hair and lives in the desert in a small Arab village. He stands with Iraqi natives as Arabic calls to prayer can be heard over loudspeakers. Army Sgt. Andrew M. Kuehn, son of Werner and Evelyn Kuehn of Roseville, is a highly specialized American soldier living as an Arab in the Mojave Desert for the exclusive benefit of other soldiers who are preparing for duty in Iraq. Kuehn and the 1,300 “opposing forces” from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, along with 250 Arab-speaking Iraqis, test and challenge soldiers for the likely situations they’ll face in the war zone. “The training that we do helps to simulate what is happening in the combat zones in Iraq. The units that are going to deploy to Iraq come first to Fort Irwin to experience the situations they may face there. My duties and responsibilities include playing as the enemy so that soldiers deploying will know how to react when they encounter real terrorist threats,” said Kuehn, a 1995 graduate of Roseville High School who went on to graduate in 2001 from Sierra College. Hollywood makeup artists use their industry’s most convincing fake blood on actors to add to the realism of simulated roadside bomb attacks by role-playing enemy insurgents. Kuehn takes his Arab acting seriously, with the goal of providing learned experiences that could help save American lives in Iraq. “It’s important to train and prepare soldiers here, because they can learn and improve skills that they need to survive and make progress in Iraq. I want soldiers to take away confidence in their skills from their training experience as well as knowledge of ways they can improve,” Kuehn said. The Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin is well-suited to duplicate the natural environment in Iraq. Situated near Death Valley, the center has 1,200 square miles of nothing but desert wilderness where approximately a dozen simulated Arab villages have been built. Each village has a different look and feel, providing different situations to learn from for the soldiers who will soon be walking village streets in Iraq. “The training environment is very realistic here. The climate and terrain as well as the urban town areas help to give a realistic feeling of being in Iraq,” Kuehn said. For now, Kuehn will work as an Arab civilian or enemy combatant, but he has a traditional Army background. “I’ve been in the Army since January of 2006. I completed basic and tank training at Fort Knox, Ky., before moving here,” he said. At first glance Kuehn’s family or friends may not recognize him in Arab wear, but his efforts as an actor are likely to help save lives of fellow American soldiers serving in the war zone.