Photo Gallery: How the US Military Simulates Iraq and Afghanistan

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Before they ship out to Iraq and Afghanistan, American soldiers must become familiar with the cultures and landscapes where they’ll be living and fighting. So, for training purposes, the military orchestrates elaborate simulations of the geography, architecture, and people they will encounter in these countries at bases in the US. In her Simulating Iraq series, Boston-based photographer Claire Beckett documents these role-plays, from the civilians and soldiers who take on roles as terrorists and nurses to entire Middle Eastern towns constructed in the California desert. But instead of assuming a polemical tone, Beckett’s photos raise essential questions: “I am interested in the ways that the imagination is at work in these spaces,” she writes. “One wonders, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? Who is a real Iraqi and who is a fake insurgent? What does it feel like for a soldier to play the role of her or his enemy? What does it mean to a young soldier who has their first encounter with difference in this environment?” Click through for ten of the most striking images from Simulating Iraq, and then visit Beckett’s website to see more of the series and her other projects.

Army SPC Gary McCorkle as a terrorist, 2009. Photo credit: Claire Beckett [Spotted via Booooooom]

Civilian Krista Galyean as an injured Marine, 2008. Photo credit: Claire Beckett

Civilian Afghan-Americans as Afghan villagers, 2009. Photo credit: Claire Beckett

Medina Jabal Town, Fort Irwin, CA, 2009. Photo credit: Claire Beckett

PVT Dan Floyd, 2007. Photo credit: Claire Beckett

Civilian Deidra Manaseo as an Iraqi civilian, 2007. Photo credit: Claire Beckett

Jabal Village Mosque, Fort Irwin, CA, 2008. Photo credit: Claire Beckett

Marine LCpl Nicole Veen as an Iraqi nurse, 2008. Photo credit: Claire Beckett

Shia mosque interior, Medina Wassl Village, 2008. Photo credit: Claire Beckett

Fire, Medina Wasl Village, 2008. Photo credit: Claire Beckett