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EXPLAINER: Why Dutch soldiers were at the Indiana army camp

Before three Dutch soldiers were shot, one fatally, in downtown Indianapolis, they were training at a military camp in southern Indiana where international soldiers participated in highly specialized urban combat simulations that they might not be able to get in their own country.

Simmie Poetsema, 26, was identified Monday as the soldier who died from his injuries in Saturday’s shooting outside a Hampton Inn where the men were staying. The other two soldiers have injuries that are not expected to be life-threatening, officials said.

But police on Tuesday did not release additional information about the circumstances of the shooting. No arrests have been announced.

Before the shooting, which Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said came after a fight at a local bar, the men’s belongings were about an hour southeast — at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center.


Foreign soldiers often travel to U.S. military installations that replicate the “unpredictable realism” of battlefield situations in an environment a soldier would encounter.

In Muscatatuck — where the three Dutch Commando members involved in the shooting were training — “everything in the town and surrounding properties, including the people, is ‘at stake,'” its website says.

It is a 1,000-acre (405-hectare) complex that heralds hyper-focused training in land, air, water, technology, and space.

The number of international soldiers training at the camp varies each year, Indiana National Guard spokesman Jeff Lowry said in a statement. Individual soldier training depends on the needs of the unit, and in this case the Dutch Ministry of Defense provided that guidance, Lowry said.

“The training they will undergo will revolve around urban operations which could include a variety of training activities from search and rescue to escape and capture,” Lowry said.

Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a retired Navy colonel, said Muscatatuck is “essentially a small town” for combat training. U.S. allies with troops from countries that lack the capability for such facilities can learn in an environment that replicates that in which they might fight, he said.

“The Europeans have things like that,” he said, but the American facilities are “more elaborate, partly because we have more money, and probably because we have more space and forces. more important”.


The Muscatatuck complex had been a state-run center for people with developmental disabilities since the 1920s, with over 2,000 residents at one point before it was closed by the state. The Indiana National Guard then took over the site in 2005.

Military officials saw the campus of more than 60 buildings, nine miles of roads and more than a mile of tunnels – in a rural setting isolated from neighboring communities – as an ideal location to replicate urban territory for military training, including chemical or biological attack.

“Our primary focus is to simulate real-world urban scenarios through live and virtual training for first responders involved in counterterrorism operations,” said Indiana Guard Adjutant General Martin Umbarger, announcing the creation of the Muscatatuck center in 2004.

The Indiana National Guard said in a statement that the center is used for training by the Department of Defense “as well as other allies.” A spokesperson did not respond to an interview request.

These materials detail a training environment that mimics a city – complete with a five-story hospital, oil refinery, coal-fired steam plant, among many other features – as well as infrastructure elements that might be found in a war zone like like downed plane, searchable “rubble buildings”, collapsed parking lot and collapsed railway trestle.


The Muscatatuck center is part of a larger facility called Atterbury-Muscatatuck that covers 36,000 acres, including some lodging options, where troops typically stay seven to 14 days, Lowry said. It is not clear if the Dutch soldiers had remained on the installation during any of their training. ___

Associated Press writer Tom Davies in Indianapolis contributed to this report. Arleigh Rodgers is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.