Civilian role players work 12-hour days during exercise 

Staff Sgt. Jason Proefrock, displaced civilian facilitator, U.S. Army North, briefs role players on the next training event and takes questions from the group. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson, Army North PAO)

Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson

Public Affairs, U.S. Army North

Working with role playing civilians from as far away as Michigan and Texas, personnel from U.S. Army North are creating realistic training scenarios involving "sick" and "injured" civilians for the thousands of service members in Indiana for Vibrant Response 13, a major incident exercise conducted by U.S. Northern Command and led by U.S. Army North.

At the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind., and several other sites, civilians in moulage role play victims of a simulated 10-kiloton nuclear detonation in a major Midwestern city, and its after-effects.

Service members perform search and extraction missions, decontamination mission, medical triage, medical evacuation, radiation treatment and even fatality search and recovery missions with the role players.

"At Muscatatuck, there are 200 role players and 11 displaced civilian facilitators," Staff Sgt. William Velez, one of the Army North facilitators who works with the civilians, said.

Adding, "It’s a twelve-hour day for the role players. They start early in moulage, then work three hours on, one off, and so on."

Chrissy Branum, one of the roleplayers from nearby North Vernon, Ind., said the facilitators ensure she gets plenty of water and stays in the shade as much as possible. She said the work is pretty good.

"The waiting and the heat is the hardest part," Branum said.

Adding, "But it’s lots of fun, and the make-up is fun. And the Army North facilitators have been very professional and helpful."

Oscar Vargas, a mechanical engineering major at the University of Texas – El Paso traveled all the way to Indiana from Texas to work as a role player during Vibrant Response 13.

"I wanted to do it because it’s something new, a new experience," Vargas said.

He added, "And, for my age, it’s good money. When they paint me and when I have to act, it’s been fun."

Staff Sgt. Jason Proefrock, another Army North facilitators, said there are a few differences between leading soldiers and working with civilians.

"The hardest part of managing civilians is that they’re not military," Proefrock said. "You have to get away from Army jargon and use a language they understand."

Proefrock, an Army intelligence analyst, said the experience has helped him grow as a leader.

"It has taught me new ways to manage. Mainly, treat them as you would want to be treated, that’s the biggest thing," he said.

Ali Jadou, who was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and has lived in the United States since the fourth grade, traveled from Dearborn, Mich., with several friends to work as a role player.

"I think it’s pretty cool," Jadou said. "My father served with the Army. I wanted to get the experience working with the military. I want to join the Air Force after I finish college."