Picturing the Enemy: Who do Soldiers Aim at during Target Practice?

Sunday, January 04, 2015
U.S. training target (photo: Herlinde Koelbl)

A common preparation for war, regardless of the army, is training soldiers to shoot and kill the enemy. This practice usually involves targets shaped like humans, although they don’t always have a generic quality about them.


Photographer Herlinde Koelbl visited 30 countries as part of her research for the book Targets to learn how soldiers from different nations are trained to kill others.


In the United States, military target practice has changed dramatically over the generations. A century ago, American soldiers attacked nothing more than sacks tied to a string before fighting in World War I. During the Cold War, U.S. troops took aim at human-shaped targets dressed in green, but wearing a red star on their helmets to represent Soviet soldiers. Now that the Red Menace has been replaced by a Middle-Eastern one, American military training uses targets dressed in “eastern-looking clothing” and sporting dark skin, Koelbl wrote for BBC News.


The U.S Army has constructed a town at Fort Irwin in the California desert that includes simulated mosques, and Israel uses a complete ghost town that includes buildings labeled “The Bank of Palestine and El Baladia City Hall” to simulate urban warfare for its soldiers.


In North Korea, soldiers are taught to shoot at painted targets with “USA” scrawled on their helmets.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

The Images Used to Teach Soldiers to Kill (BBC News)

Targets (by Herlinde Koelbl)

North Korea War Training Shown Off In Video (Live Leak)


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