The Box

A couple years ago, Venue had a pretty neat photo-essay of the training going on at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, CA.











While NTC is the most famous “box,” as a practical matter, the maneuver area of just about every training site* is commonly referred to as “the box.” That distinguishes it from the cantonment and administrative areas of training ranges. Interestingly, the training areas on ones home station are never referred to as “the box” but rather as “downrange” or simply “the field.”

As noted in the Venue article, the last decade has seen the Army shift its emphasis from training in open terrain or deep in the woods to the urban environment. In the Army, we call this MOUT, or Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain. And a lot of money has gone to making realistic urbanized training ranges. In my day, the Army approach to MOUT was to pretty much ignore it, and hope for the best. The “MOUT site” was generally nothing more than two, maybe three shells of two story cinderblock buildings.

Now, recognizing that quality training requires quality ranges, the Army has opened a new MOUT site at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, and it’s something else.


The AWG facility isn’t just for training in a MOUT environment. The Army intends to use it to try to look into the future, and see what tactics and techniques enemy forces will use to counter us, and devise solutions before we ever even face the enemy.

6 thoughts on “The Box”

    1. I’m not sure what you’re asking.

      Most training today is on entering and clearing a urban area. But in the Cold War, the Berlin Brigade actually had a pretty impressive MOUT site that they used to practice the defense.

  1. I feel like the lone voice in the wilderness but I contend that we have a large gap in our MOUT training right now. We have spent the last decade fighting small groups or single individuals while largely ignoring the threat of fighting true infantry in fortified buildings. Something akin to the tactics of the 80s and prior, with a frag and a magazine into every room. Right now we are still stacking on walls, regardless of known weapons effects in urban terrain, and neglecting the ability to train the fighting of organized and trained forces.

  2. “the Berlin Brigade actually had a pretty impressive MOUT site that they used to practice the defense.”

    I am wondering if perhaps that was the only such site in USAREUR. Kind of odd, since there was definitely some built up terrain in Germany. During my tour we passed through many towns during training, but never trained to attack or defend them. Unrealistic, but then a lot of our training was unrealistic.

  3. Unrelated, but what a surprise to see my old 2nd Bn, 14th Infantry Regiment Commander, COL Petkosek (well, he was LTC Petkosek them, but whatever) speaking. Served under him for about three years. Great guy, great BC, was sorry to see him leave. Never heard anything but good things from the Staff and Company Commanders. Very approachable guy, smart as hell, and very stealthy: he could be in and out of your company area, conducting whatever business he had with the CO, then out again before anyone had noticed; I think he like it that way, never had an entourage, very “down-to-earth.” Liked a good cigar too.

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