Muscatatuck Urban Training Center

The extensive US operations in Iraq, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan, have meant that US forces had to learn to do something they really didn’t want to- fight in urbanized terrain. Fighting in cities is hard, it takes a lot of manpower, it usually costs a lot of casualties, and a lot of civilians tend to get killed. So for many years, the services just kind of pretended that they wouldn’t have to do it. Oh, there were some half-hearted attempts to pretend there was a doctrine in place for it, and that the troops were trained for it. But really? No. Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT) got lip service at best.

One of the real challenges of realistic training for MOUT is that there just aren’t a lot of places to train. I mean, if you want to practice tank/mech infantry warfare, you just need a lot of open space. But to train to fight in a city, you need, well, a city! And building those facilities isn’t cheap.

At Ft. Carson, a base home to more than a division of troops, in the 1990s, the sum total of MOUT training facilities was 3 or 4 cinder block two story structures less than the size of a middle class house. Given that Ft. Carson’s troop units next fight would be in downtown Baghdad, it would seem the lack of realistic urban training was a great disservice to our troops.

With that critical shortage of training facilities staring them in the face, and with the urban nature of combat in Iraq becoming more and more apparent every day, the Army in the first few years of the Iraq War sought frantically to find places to train troops for the unique challenges of MOUT.

One innovative approach was to use surplus property. In Indiana, the states former “Development Center” (formerly the Indiana Farm Colony for Feeble Minded Youth) was closed, and it residents placed in community settings*. This surplus facility was then turned over to the Indiana National Guard, and became the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center. The large number and variety of buildings, while not perfect, were a vast improvement over having nothing at all to train with.


While the facility is now run by the Indiana National Guard, it is used by a wide variety of organizations. In addition to military units, police and other civil agencies use its facilities to train for law enforcement and disaster relief operations.

There are other efforts still underway to increase the number and scope of facilities for training troops to fight in urban settings. But this is surely one of the cheaper alternatives around.

*No, the challenged youth of Indiana were not evicted to make way for the callous killers of the military. The policy decision had previously been made to reintegrate the MSDC residents into community settings and close the facility. Only then was the decision made to turn it over to the IARNG.

And this post was made mostly because I really, really found myself enjoying saying “Muscatatuck” over and over again. Try it, you’ll see what I mean.

11 thoughts on “Muscatatuck Urban Training Center”

  1. It may not have been a big deal in your day but it was huge in the 1970s and 1980s in Germany. We did a huge amount of training within MOUT environments. My GDP included MOUT operations.

    The first was site has pictures from Doughboy City in Berlin…went there twice in 3 years with my company. Had an epic firefight in a sewer system between my platoon and a British section.

    This next is from the Bundeswehr’s training area of Hammelburg (their FT Benning) which had an actual German town used for MOUT

    Fought a few battles there as well. They also had an excellent forest combat school there which I went to with my battalion.

    When the Cold War ended, I would agree we went away from MOUT training and concentrated more on the Mid East. But prior to that it was very prevalent.

    I recall in the mid 1980s when I was in the 24th ID(M) we were the only active unit with sand colored vehicles as our standard paint scheme…that changed I’d say!

    I think the MOUT mission and training all depended on location and METL/GDP mission.

    But it is apparent the Army has put it back on teh plate for some units (see 10 MD…it is huge with them).

  2. Hohenfels, Fort Polk, NTC, Fort Lewis, and Fort Stewart all have pretty good MOUT sites that I have been in. Problem is that very few of them are built using typical Middle Eastern architecture. This is important when you consider for example that most structures in the region have walls around them, flat roofs, unique staircases and open central entryways, etc. They also fail to replicate the sheer density of the buildings on a typical block. They are also not well constructed to facilitate Tactical/Sensitive Site Exploitation (i.e. exploiting the site during actions on the objective). But, the bottom line is that the army has made huge strides in the doctrine of Urban Operations.

  3. Hohenfels and Polk, both late 90s, Lewis was building it in ’03 when I left OIF 1. Stewart was still a work in progress in fall 2010 when we did our BCT trainup for OIF 10.

    1. I would say that the army recognized the need for Urban Ops a bit earlier than you surmise, and acted on it well later than they should have! What has largely changed is not that there is a need, but in the level of violence to be effected by the forces. You and I learned in the ’80s to chuck in a frag and then come in with guns-a-blazin because there were nothing but bad guys. Now, we come in sans frag and likely nothing more than the ability to provide single/double shots of aimed and discriminatory fire because we recognize that Urban Ops are performed in and around a living breathing populace.

    2. I think you are somewhat right about the timing of the Army’s recognition of the need to train for MOUT. My recollection of the timeline was that after the Battle of Mogadishu, there was a strong effort in some quarters (mainly the light community) to ramp up training in that area. I know that lessons learned there were implemented with some success in JRTC. I think the light forces were also pretty strongly influenced by the invasion of Panama, but that lesson seemed drowned out by events in Desert Storm.
      The influence of having to work in the Balkans in a OOTW environment nudged the heavy forces, particularly in Europe to recognize that fragging every room wasn’t the way to go.

      But I still maintain that the training was severely underresourced until well into the OIF mission.

  4. You know, they could always use the 50% of the city of Detroit that has no inhabitants…..

  5. I’ll buy “underresourced.” It still is. “They” spend way too much money trying to build up instrumented buildings and cameras etc. The one that they have at Fort Stewart now is big enough that it served as a brigade objective, though, with one CAB as OPFOR and COBs. Nice site but the buildings are too far apart.

  6. I am trying to find out(remember) the name of the MOUT facility in Germany that we trained at in the early 1990’s. We had a joint-training exercise w/ Germany, Canada, as well as outside NATO forces. What I do remember is the facility was at one time a fully populated village(prior to WW II invasion of German & Allied Forces); I believe the people(then) just evacuated to never return. Can anyone help me out with the name of the facility or town name? Thankin y’all in advance. God Bless
    Lad Dickey

    1. If it was that big, it might have been on CMTC, the Combat Maneuver Training Center down in Hohenfels. That whole area had been settled prior to the war, and the Germans came in and kicked everyone out and made it into a training area. The biggest MOUT site on it was custom built, not WWII era, though. It was called Ubungsdorf.

    2. There was a German training center that was pretty much what you describe, a village where they just kicked everyone out. They eventually built a lot of new construction for the site. I saw a big pictorial of it, but can’ t remember the name.

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