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  4. Fiery photos show US soldiers getting hit with Molotov cocktails as they train to tackle even the most intense riots

Fiery photos show US soldiers getting hit with Molotov cocktails as they train to tackle even the most intense riots

Elias Chavez   

Fiery photos show US soldiers getting hit with Molotov cocktails as they train to tackle even the most intense riots
North Macedonian soldiers conduct fire phobia training during Exercise Kosovo Forces 31 at Hohenfels Training Area, Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, GermanyU.S. Army photo by Sgt. Andrew Miller via DVIDS
  • US soldiers participate in riot training at Germany's Joint Multinational Readiness Center.
  • Part of the training is about confronting fire phobia and preparing soldiers for dealing with incendiary weapons.

While some American soldiers go through riot training during their time in the Army, the joint training in Germany introduces a new element they don't experience at home: fire.

During joint training near Hohenfels, Germany, US Army personnel participate in riot training with soldiers from the surrounding areas. The purpose of the training is to prepare soldiers for encounters they might have while on tour in the European Command area of operations.

Part of the joint training exercise is what's known as "fire phobia" training, where soldiers are taught how to deal with incendiary devices being thrown at them. And there's no better way to learn than experience.

"It was kind of a terrifying feat that we were going to have Molotov cocktails thrown directly at us," Training NCO Jacob Wright told Business Insider, referring to an improvised weapon crudely constructed using a glass bottle containing a flammable liquid and a cloth wick.

The training is hosted and led by the Slovenian military.

The training is hosted and led by the Slovenian military.
Slovenian soldiers conduct fire phobia training during a Kosovo Force (KFOR) mission rehearsal exercise.      Pfc. John Cress Jr. via DVIDS

The training occurs at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.

The JMRC serves as a pre-deployment training base for soldiers before entering the Kosovo Regional Command East theater, where incendiary devices may be more common during riots.

The soldiers stay there for around 22 days, participating in various trainings and exercises.

Safety is paramount during fire phobia training, with fire extinguishers present and ready to go.

Safety is paramount during fire phobia training, with fire extinguishers present and ready to go.
A Hungarian Defense Forces soldier stands ready with a fire extinguisher as Iowa Army National Guard Soldiers run through flames during fire phobia training.      Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit via DVIDS

Soldiers are also given fire retardant clothing known as FRACU, short for Flame Resistant Army Combat Uniform.

Soldiers are also given fire retardant clothing known as FRACU, short for Flame Resistant Army Combat Uniform.
A soldier grabs fire-safe clothing before practicing defending against Molotov attacks during a fire phobia exercise.      Spc. Micah Wilson via DVIDS

The fire-resistant clothing protects soldiers from the dangers of the fire, but it doesn't do much to keep them insulated, which is less than ideal in colder months. In fact, soldiers are told not to wear any winter gear since it isn't FRACU material. The general idea is that is better to be cold than set on fire.

The accelerants used during training are not as highly combustible as the real deal, but they are suitable for the intended lesson.

The accelerants used during training are not as highly combustible as the real deal, but they are suitable for the intended lesson.
A Portuguese soldier prepares to throw a Molotov cocktail at soldiers while conducting fire phobia training.      Pfc. Lloyd Villanueva via DVIDS

Before fire is thrown anywhere, proper techniques are demonstrated.

Before fire is thrown anywhere, proper techniques are demonstrated.
A Portuguese soldier demonstrates the proper technique for reaction while conducting fire phobia training.      Sgt. Nicholaus Williams via DVIDS

Soldiers are then tested on their ability to perform those techniques to effectively address the flames.

Soldiers are then tested on their ability to perform those techniques to effectively address the flames.
A U.S. Army Soldier reacts to a Molotov cocktail while undergoing fire phobia training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels, Germany.      Sgt. Marla Ogden via DVIDS

Soldiers who go through the training are taught to assume a tucked position behind their riot shields with their feet together and their shields against their shin protectors to prevent the fire from coming up from beneath their shields.

Soldiers are taught that once the bottle explodes and the fire starts to spread, they should stomp backwards while flailing their arms to quickly extinguish the fire.

"That was all part of the building process and then also us becoming comfortable or, I would say, becoming confident in our techniques in order to feel comfortable going into the training," Wright said.

Once soldiers demonstrate proper technique, the real training can begin.

Once soldiers demonstrate proper technique, the real training can begin.
Soldiers participate in crowd riot control training as they react to Molotov cocktails being thrown at their feet during a Kosovo Force (KFOR) mission rehearsal exercise.      Staff Sgt. Anna Pongo via DVIDS

Standing in the bitter German cold, the fire brings an almost welcome warmth.

"We were absolutely freezing," Wright said. "And then we go to the point where we're going to conduct the training, and they're briefing us. We are just shivering and freezing, and we're also terrified because we're about to get Molotov cocktails thrown at us."

Soldiers do the training individually first.

Soldiers do the training individually first.
Pvt. Logan Lopez, a cavalry scout assigned to 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division, participates in fire phobia training.      Spc. Adeline Witherspoon via DVIDS

Wright said the fear dissipates as quickly as the fires they're trying to put out.

"There was definitely a level of fear there," Wright said. "Once we actually saw the demonstrators, it significantly dropped because what you imagine in your mind that the boogeyman looks like is completely different than what he actually looks like."

After the individual practice, soldiers then work in pairs.

After the individual practice, soldiers then work in pairs.
Two soldiers holding riot shields are engulfed in flames during fire phobia training in Germany.      Sgt. Alex Hellmann via DVIDS

Smaller groups are next.

Smaller groups are next.
Soldiers from the Italian Army practice defending themselves against thrown incendiary devices.      SGT Andrew Miller via DVIDS

Finally, soldiers practice what they've learned in full formations.

Finally, soldiers practice what they
Soldiers conduct fire phobia training during Exercise Kosovo Forces 32 in Hohenfels Training Area, Germany.      Sgt. Corey Hyatt via DVIDS

Soldiers start off with individual training because the approach to putting out the fire will be the same approach no matter the situation.

Building up to being in larger groups helps soldiers apply these skills on a larger scale while moving in a way that doesn't prevent other soldiers from putting out the flames.

After a day of getting fire thrown at them, soldiers get the opportunity to do the throwing.

After a day of getting fire thrown at them, soldiers get the opportunity to do the throwing.
Col. Derek Adams, commander of Regional Command-East, Kosovo Force, prepares to throw a fire bottle during fire phobia training.      Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit via DVIDS

"It was definitely a lot more interesting and a lot more fun from that side," Wright said. "It was cool to see both sides of it being on the receiving end and then also being on the throwing end."

The training aims to build the confidence and skills necessary to handle flammable weaponry in a riot.

The training aims to build the confidence and skills necessary to handle flammable weaponry in a riot.
A Hungarian Defense Forces soldier throws a fire bottle during fire phobia training.      Staff Sgt. Tawny Schmit via DVIDS

"I wouldn't say that I'm less afraid of fire, but I'm less afraid in the instance of encountering a Molotov cocktail during a riot," Wright said. "I feel confident in the training that I've received to be able to appropriately deal with that and handle that stress."

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