February 8, 2005
By Capt. Dan Allen
At home and abroad members of the Virginia Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Division continue to train for and fight the global war on terrorism and some soldiers are going the extra step to achieve realism and convey the training objective.
Maj. Jim Contreras, 29th Division Artillery's intelligence officer challenged his staff members and fellow Guardsmen to understand the mind set and culture of our enemy in the global war terrorism on Jan. 9, at the Mullins Armory in Sandston, Virginia.
"I wanted to convey a sense of realism to our soldiers," said Contreras. "The ability to see an enemy soldier, up front and personal and being allowed inside his mind in terms of what he's going to do to you really hits home."
Along with managing enemy intelligence, Contreras a native of Richmond, is responsible for developing the enemy role play for the unit for the upcoming annual training in June at Ft. Picket, Va.
Donning knives, an AK-47 and headdress, the enemy combatant crashed into the room midway through the Annual Training briefing which was attended by members of the brigade and battalion staff and the Division Commander, Maj. Gen Arthur H. Wyman. Much to the surprise and amusement of the attendees, the side door of the classroom opened, and in sprang Contreras dressed in black and speaking with an accent while declaring, "Every where I look I see a target rich environment."
"This is the type of outstanding and innovative approach to training that the National Guard excels in," said Wyman, who presented Contreras with a Commander's Coin for his outstanding efforts.
In preparation for the role, Contreras, a 12 year Army veteran, did a great deal of research on soldiers in four different countries and then incorporated what he had learned to fit the National Guard unit's scenario. He added that realistic training had to be the reason for everything he did.
Contreras also said that a great deal of his knowledge on enemy soldiers came from personal experiences through his many deployments. Contreras is a Desert Storm Vet was deployed to Haiti in 1995, Bosnia in 1997.
The costume came from miscellaneous items that Contreras had in his possession. The black pants are from the Army surplus, boots were army issue and the knives he collected throughout his military career. When asked why he still had on his cell phone on what would otherwise appear to be a somewhat primitive uniform, he explained that it was the most deadly weapon he had on his person because that's what enemy soldiers in Iraq are using to detonate bombs. He added that all an enemy soldier has to do is dial a number and press send to detonate a bomb.
As a civilian, Contreras sells surgical devices and equipment for Johnson and Johnson and has lived in the Richmond area for four years.