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K-State Today

February 22, 2022

Mackay visits National Training Center at Fort Irwin

Submitted by David Mackay

David Mackay at NTC in Fort Irwin, California

David Mackay, associate professor in the K-State theatre program was chosen as one of five local community leaders to visit the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, from Feb. 17-20.

At the center, 3,800 soldiers from Fort Riley's 1st Infantry Division were enacting realistic war tactics over the vast terrain. Some of the U.S. Army's most important unit training takes place at the center. The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and the Blackhorse Cavalry are stationed at Fort Irwin and provide an opposing force to the 1st Infantry Division while training in rotation at Fort Irwin.

Mackay along with Art DeGroat, executive director of military and veteran affairs, are developing a theatre workshop program for veterans, Action to the Word. Their objective is to coordinate, organize and educate veterans with the necessary acting skills required to speak and perform Shakespeare's text. Returning veterans often struggle with feelings of rage, isolation and grief. Shakespeare's works enable veterans to access these feelings and offer a balm to heal the invisible wounds of returning soldiers. A pilot workshop took place in November 2021 with 10 veterans and five student actors. One of the attendees was Major Gen. Douglas A. Sims II, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division.

Thanks to DeGroat, also a lieutenant colonel, retired, U.S. Army, who nominated Mackay to attend Fort Irwin National Training Center. Mackay had a once in a lifetime opportunity to gain a deeper understanding about army training and military life.

"Knowing the rigors of what soldiers must endure in this war simulation environment provides me with a brief glimpse into not only the life and death stakes of war, but also the necessary structure, camaraderie and shared struggles soldiers experiences during combat," Mackay said. 

Mackay and DeGroat are planning for another Shakespeare and veteran workshop in April.