HOHENFELS, Germany - U.S. Soldiers from Company A, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment geared up with Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement Systems at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center MILES Distribution facility as part of Cooperative Spirit 2008 Friday.
The training event is part of the American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Armies Program's ongoing mission to close interoperability gaps between the nations. One example of ABCA's compatibility is that each of the five nations is using MILES during Cooperative Spirit 2008.
MILES technology is a collection of electronic receivers spread out over the body of a person or vehicle that alerts the user once contact has been made with a laser signal from the other part of MILES: a transmitter attached to a weapon. This minimizes the risk of injury associated with conventional means of battlefield simulation.
"I've heard some pretty good things about it," said Pfc. Skyler Eden, a 19-year old infantryman from Sierra Vista, Ariz. "It's basically a vest that goes around (your body and) your helmet. The head piece is kind of heavy, but we carry heavy stuff anyway."
Twenty-two-year old Spc. Ralph Willsey has worn MILES during other training, but he has yet to use it attached to a Stryker vehicle.
The Syracuse, N.Y., native said, "(We) simulate combat conditions ... without using actual bullets."
The superiority of an armored personnel carrier belted with modern MILES is that it cannot be triggered by MILES mimicking rounds from an M-16 rifle. APCs are usually equipped with a belt consisting of modular sensors, which set off an amber light and siren when successfully targeted by the opposing team. A Soldier's helmet and harness detect hits similarly.
"I'm a small and an easy buddy carry, so I die all the time," Willsey joked, "(We) go out in the woods, run around and shoot each other."
MILES irons out unit jitters, making for a well-rehearsed fighting force, he added.
"It increases unit cohesion - within your squad, your platoon - so you know how everybody works. That way, when you get on the ground, you can work together," Willsey said.
MILES equipment can be used in any climate condition, however, inclement weather can interfere with its lasers. Willsey observed that sensors are less effective when a target is hiding behind wet foliage.
The onset of MILES gear throughout the 1980s failed to identify who shot whom during battle enactments. Mock fatalities could cheat by rebooting their device. Perhaps because of this, some Soldiers find MILES' capabilities rather limiting, preferring blank adaptors that fire an encrypted signal in the path of an emitter's bearing.
Simulated Area Weapons Effects in conjunction with radio frequency communication and a Global Positioning Satellite were put into practice at Hohenfels during the early 1990s, marking an evolution in MILES technology. This enabled dismounted soldiers and their APCs to be hit during replicated explosions. These hi-tech modifications now facilitate observers with a definitive view of tactical developments.
"I prefer working without it," Willsey said. "I like to use sim-rounds whenever possible, but they're expensive and you have to use special adapters for weapons to use them."
Paintball-style rounds to replicate combat zone scenarios are also favored by many troops.
"They have paint rounds that can actually tell where you got hit," Willsey said. "It works with an M-4 or .50 cal. If you get hit in a sensitive area, you don't get hurt that much, but you know that you're hit, and why you got hit."
Where sim-rounds are expensive and paint ball is dangerous, MILES has continued to offer safe combat simulations and even received several upgrades.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16