Arabian knights

Published 2:48 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A hush falls over the angry mob as the determined soldiers approach. These unwelcome visitors have forced their way into a town of scared and hostile Arabic men and women.

The crowd lets out a roar of “Bush, Bush Alibaba”. The soldiers do not know that these people are calling their president a thief. They want the armed soldiers to leave the village immediately, before they discover the townspeople’s secret: they are harboring insurgents.

But before the Arabic leader of the town, the sheik, has the opportunity to tell the soldiers to leave his village, a sniper shot rings through the air.

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“Man down! Man down!” a petite woman dressed in camouflage yells. The wounded soldier, lying on the ground, screaming in pain, is removed from the action around him.

More shots ring out. The mob screams, “Yella! Etlah Barra!” The frantic people grab a soldier and take him hostage. He struggles to return to his formation and his friends, but the hope drains from his eyes when he realizes that they will not release him.

Just as a soldier is raising his gun to shoot his friend’s captors, a whistle is blown and everything stops.“Index,” the officer in command yells. “Alright everybody, that was an excellent scenario. Next time, I need you to be a little louder,” she says.

This is a typical workday in the life of Hoppy Dubois of Hattiesburg. Dubois is a civilian employee at Camp Shelby military base in Hattiesburg. Dubois has been working on the military base for over a year now.

“We dress up in Arabic clothing and participate in protests to train the soldiers for what they should expect when they get deployed to the Middle East,” said Dubois.

Dubois and his coworkers usually work eight to 16 hour shifts several days a week to prepare troops for the situations they will face overseas.

“We have to work long hours outdoors and we get hot and tired, but when the soldiers thank us and say that we are really helping them, it all seems worth it,” said Dubois.

Dubois is a team leader for the C.O.B.s, civilians on the battlefield, at Camp Shelby. It is his job to make sure that the scenarios run as smoothly as possible.

“I have to get the military what they need. If they need us to simulate a car bomb, we do it. If they need us to do a search class, I get it together for them. If they need us to do a protest, it’s my job to round everyone up and make sure that we do the best job possible,” Dubois said.

Gene Polk is also a team leader at Camp Shelby.

“This job is so much fun because you get to learn about different cultures while giving soldiers the training they need to survive in those cultures,” said Polk.

He has been learning to speak Arabic while at work.

“We work with several Arabic people and they are teaching me how to speak Arabic and what some of their customs, like covering their heads, mean,” he said.

Polk and his wife, Teresa Polk, have been employed at Camp Shelby for around two years now.

“You never know what you’ll be doing any day that you come in to work. One day, you’ll lead a protest. The next day, you’ll hide a weapon in your costume and see if the soldiers search you correctly and find it. The next day, you do a car bomb. It’s always a surprise out here,” Polk said.

“The most important thing to us is making sure that these soldiers come home alive. We train them to make sure that they can defend our country and return home safely to their family, friends and loved ones,” Polk said.