FORT AP HILL, Va. (WUSA9) -- We take you inside the Army's $96 million Asymmetric Warfare Training Center at Fort AP Hill in Virginia.
The term 'asymmetric warfare' is often used to describe an insurgency, or style of terrorism pitting a formal military against an unconventional opponent. The Army recently offered us a rare glimpse behind the razor wire.
The sprawling 300-acre facility looks like a city that could be anywhere in the world, with a five-story embassy, a school, mosque, church and a bank. But no one lives here.
"The world we live in is changing. It's a very dangerous place and we want to make sure that our soldiers are prepared," said Col. John Petkosek, the Commander of the Asymmetric Warfare Group, or AWG.
And that means getting ready for a new type of warfare, adapting to an emerging array of threats, including battles that may play out underground.
All branches of the military train here, learning how to maneuver through tunnels, make their way past locked doors and cope with confinement.
"It takes a soldier out of their comfort zone," said Master Sgt. Bill Tomlin. "It's dark in there, it's very tight, it's hot. You can't see where you're going."
The psychological training is as important as mastering the equipment.
Explained Capt. Erik Mineo, "Where you have to understand if I'm going into a dark, cold place, that piece of equipment may not work and I have to have confidence in myself and my teammates."
The Center is designed to be as realistic as possible so the first time a soldier faces a potential threat, it's not when he's under fire. Even the subway trains here are from Washington's Metro system.
This is the new face of urban warfare—the battlefield, no longer in remote, rural landscapes, but in the city.
Added Petkosek, "There's not necessarily a frontline where that's the battlefield and this is the safe rear area. Things have changed where everywhere we operate, our soldiers have to be prepared for the threat."
Here, soldiers must finesse their way through a simulated sewer system with 1,500 feet of underground tunnels.
"Oh, it's definitely a stresser," said Tomlin. "Anytime you put a soldier in the dark or you put a soldier in the confined space, it takes them out of their comfort zone and stress to their training."
This state of the art facility has another critical mission: to develop solutions to new challenges soldiers face around the world. This training may just save their lives.
Written by Andrea McCarren, WUSA9