Adjusting to life in Afghanistan can be difficult for American soldiers who have never been there before, so the Marine Corps has created several mock Afghan villages in the California desert to train Marines in how to patrol in Afghanistan before they get there.
Complete with Afghan-Americans dressed in traditional clothing and speaking their native language, the villages look just like a typical village in Afghanistan. Actors stage mock attacks and challenge Marines to respond to potential security risks.
The Afghan actors also benefit from the re-enactment; they get paid up to several hundred dollars per day for their participation at a time when many of them have struggled to find work in the recession.
However, role players walk a thin line, especially in San Diego, a city with strong military ties. Discrimination against Afghans and other Muslims flared up after 9/11, when it was discovered that two of the 9/11 hijackers, none of them Afghan, lived here before the attacks. Still, the role players say they persist in their work because they hope to teach the Marines something about their culture.
"Some feel that, yes, this is a great thing to do. We're serving America and we're serving Afghanistan, both at the same time. It's like hitting two birds with one stone." - Hanif Mohebi, Afghan role player
"The first time you go on a patrol, you're going to be kind of just overwhelmed with all of the culture, the scenery, trying to figure out what's going on, how to deal with these people. If you don't get something like this, you're doing it for the first time in Afghanistan. That's not a good day." - Sgt. Christopher Roberts, U.S. Marine Corps
1. Where is Afghanistan? What do you know about it?
2. Why is the U.S. military involved in Afghanistan?
3. What kind of training do you think a U.S. soldier would need before heading to Afghanistan?
1. How do you think you would feel about your job if you were an Afghan role player? Why?
2. Do you think this role playing is effective training for what soldiers will face in Afghanistan? Why or why not?
3. What does the role playing organizer in the video mean when he says, 'Three years from now, we could be asking for, you know, Iranians. We could be asking for, you know, Koreans, who knows'?
Young Soldiers Reflect on Afghanistan Service: