DM OPFOR bolsters joint training

Staff Sgt. Eric Fullmer, 563d Operations Support Squadron, scans through a window while acting as an oppositional force member, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Staff Sgt. Eric Fullmer, 563d Operations Support Squadron, scans through a window while acting as an oppositional force member, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Airmen from the 563d Operations Support Squadron engage a group of Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force while acting as oppositional forces, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Airmen from the 563d Operations Support Squadron engage a group of Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force while acting as oppositional forces, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Staff Sgt. Nathan Franey, left, Senior Airman Shane Hardin, center, and Staff Sgt. Eric Fullmer, 563d Operations Support squadron, act as oppositional forces, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Staff Sgt. Nathan Franey, left, Senior Airman Shane Hardin, center, and Staff Sgt. Eric Fullmer, 563d Operations Support squadron, act as oppositional forces, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Senior Airman Shane Hardin, left, and Staff Sgt. Eric Fullmer, 563d Operations Support Squadron, scan for targets while acting as oppositional forces, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Senior Airman Shane Hardin, left, and Staff Sgt. Eric Fullmer, 563d Operations Support Squadron, scan for targets while acting as oppositional forces, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Staff Sgt. Nathan Franey, 563d Operations Support Squadron, acts as an oppositional force member, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Staff Sgt. Nathan Franey, 563d Operations Support Squadron, acts as an oppositional force member, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Tech. Sgt. Mykal Sequeria, left, and Airmen from the 563d Operations Support Squadron simulate oppositional forces, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Tech. Sgt. Mykal Sequeria, left, and Airmen from the 563d Operations Support Squadron simulate oppositional forces, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Senior Airman Keaton Houser, 563d Operations Support Squadron, uses a man-portable aircraft survivability trainer to simulate threats on aircraft, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emitters, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Senior Airman Keaton Houser, 563d Operations Support Squadron, uses a man-portable aircraft survivability trainer to simulate threats on aircraft, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emitters, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Senior Airman Keaton Houser, left, and Tech. Sgt. Mykal Seqeuria, 563d Operations Support Squadron, use a man-portable, aircraft survivability trainer to simulate threats on an aircraft, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Senior Airman Keaton Houser, left, and Tech. Sgt. Mykal Seqeuria, 563d Operations Support Squadron, use a man-portable, aircraft survivability trainer to simulate threats on an aircraft, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Tech. Sgt. Mykal Sequeria, 563d Operations Support Squadron rigger, targets an HH-60G pave Hawk while acting as an oppositional force member, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Tech. Sgt. Mykal Sequeria, 563d Operations Support Squadron rigger, targets an HH-60G pave Hawk while acting as an oppositional force member, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emittors, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Senior Airman Shane Hardin, 563d Operations Support Squadron, scans through a window while acting as an oppositional force member, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emitters, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)
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Senior Airman Shane Hardin, 563d Operations Support Squadron, scans through a window while acting as an oppositional force member, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Playas Training and Research Center, N.M. OPFOR is a role designed to simulate downrange threats and complicate training objectives with the ultimate goal of creating a realistic training environment for units preparing to deploy. Airmen from the 563d OSS fill this role in support of numerous joint exercises each year utilizing aircraft-threat emitters, vehicle-mounted simulation weapons and waves of ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --

Insurgents slowly approach a bazaar, hugging a wall as they creep down an empty street. Armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s, they are on the hunt for U.S. troops rumored to be in the area. In an adjacent field, an MV-22 Osprey kicks up a thick cloud of dirt as it lands. Excited by the target, the insurgents scale the wall only to be quickly neutralized by a force of waiting Marines.

The insurgents survived, because they were actually Airmen from the 563d Operations Support Squadron, and the lonely village they patrolled wasn’t in Afghanistan, but New Mexico. The attack was part of a Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force certification exercise held at the Playas Training and Research Center, in Playas, N.M.

Acting as a realistic opposition force, also called OPFOR, is how the 563d OSS vigorously challenges units as they prepare to deploy.

“Supplying people and equipment to play in these exercises is a direct investment into the readiness of our guys going downrange,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jeremiah Burleson, 563d OSS weapons and tactics flight commander. “Our entire objective here is to make sure these guys are ready to go. The more prepared they are to go out the door in a real-world scenario, the better we did our job.

“Too often these rescue exercises are ‘cut and paste, fly-in, fly-out’ scenarios,” Burleson continued. “So they aren’t used to dealing with opposition forces, and realistically, that’s what would happen. The more we challenge them, the better prepared they are.”

Dressed in middle-eastern garb, Airmen from the 563d OSS do their best to mimic scenarios and portray life-like downrange conditions.

“We (the 563d OSS) want to make the best and the most realistic scenarios so that the training environment is as close to the real thing as possible,” Burleson said. “This way, the first time these guys encounter an opposition force in real life, isn’t in combat. Even though the real thing may feel different, the more accurate we can be now, the less of a shock it is for these guys when they go downrange.”

OPFOR offers the realistic training that is tactically-similar to a scene that could play out in one of many locations while U.S. troops are deployed. 

“We bring equipment that heightens the realism, like a 50-cal and an IR threat simulator, realistic attire and simulated weapons,” said Senior Airman Keaton Houser, 563d OSS rigger. “These exercises would be totally different without us here. I don’t think it would be nearly as valuable.”

“We were invited to participate because we offer personnel who are trained to fill the OPFOR role,” added Burleson. “But most of all, a group of people, who are passionate to go out, do this professionally and make it as real as possible.”

“I feel really lucky to be a part of the 563d,” said Tech. Sgt. Mykal Seqeuria, 563d OSS rigger. “We get to come out here and play the ‘bad guy’ part… shooting, making tactical movements and really stressing out the guys in the field. At the same, we’re offering a great training opportunity."