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Collection Occupational Folklife Project

Training the Troops: Military Role-Players of Fort Polk, Louisiana

In 2017, Christopher Sims, a documentarian from Efland, North Carolina, received an Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center to record interviews with “cultural role-players” employed by the United States military to train troops at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Over more than a decade, these role-players – whose ranks include both recent immigrants and long-term area residents — have evolved a unique occupational culture as they role-play being Iraqi and Afghan villagers or other foreign nationals on the training grounds of this large US Army base. During month-long rotations, these workers staff more than a half-dozen villages as “extras” who interact with soon-to-be-deployed troops to create simulated but deadly serious conflict scenarios.

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