October 31, 2008
By Don Wagner
Soldiers train to sharpen their marksmanship skills on a firing range. However, in actual combat, with the enemy shooting at them, hitting their "targets" can be much more difficult.
But the Army's Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania, allowed Soldiers to train in realistic combat scenarios as part of Joint Task Force-Europe, a monthlong multinational exercise.
U.S. Soldiers stationed in Germany, members of the New Mexico and Utah National Guards, and soldiers of the Romanian army's 21st Mountain Battalion and the Bulgarian army's 10th Company, 5th Infantry Battalion at MK Air Base, all participated in the exercise.
"The EST 2000 is like an interactive video, which allows Soldiers to practice marksmanship skills in 'real combat' virtual scenarios, such as ambush, search and destroy and rescues," said Glen Hemingway, training support specialist at the Training Support Activity-Europe in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
The TSA-E is part of the 7th U.S. Army's Joint Multinational Training Command, the Army's training arm in Europe.
"Using EST 2000, I can tell you what your trigger squeeze is. I can tell you your angle, left and right, and up and down, and I can tell you what you did two seconds before squeezing the trigger and a second after squeezing the trigger," said Hemingway, a trainer for the exercise.
"EST 2000 teaches not only marksmanship skills, but squad-level collective defense, and judgmental 'shoot-and-don't-shoot' tactics. It records fire, hit and kill events," said Hemingway.
Since the trainer uses "virtual bullets," there are no ammunition costs.
It is also portable, and can be deployed to units, thereby saving logistical expenses and time.
The trainer is located indoors, Hemingway added, so Soldiers can use it year-round.
"Temperature and climate conditions can be controlled with the EST 2000, enabling Soldiers to train in all weather," said Hemingway. "Soldiers can return fire with a variety of weapons, to include 9 mm pistols, M-16 rifles, M-60 machine guns, Squad Automatic Weapons, .50-caliber machine guns and AT-4s. The weapons have been modified to fire 'electronic bullets' at images of real-world scenarios projected onto a 30-by-8-foot screen."
The JMTC staff is currently deriving tactics from lessons learned in combat and incorporating them into the EST 2000 as future training opportunities for U.S. Soldiers and their European allies.