Armed to the teeth for training
February 9, 2011
- The dummy weapons and training aids Morales keeps track of is used by units all across the island
- they prepare for deployments or field exercises and the Training Support Center is a one stop shop for training equipment.
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico -- The Directorate of Plans Training Mobilization and Security employee casually walks past his stockpile of Soviet made rocket propelled grenade launchers, AK-47s and M-16A2s as he gives the tour of his storage facility.
Mario Morales, supply technician with DPTMS, is in charge keeping track of them and though his stockpile of weapons is fake the equipment is available for use in real training. The dummy weapons and training aids Morales keeps track of are used by units all across the island as they prepare for deployments or field exercises and the Training Support Center is a one stop shop for training equipment.
"I trouble shoot all of the training devices, whatever we have on board," said HAfActor "Willie" ColAfA3n, an electronics technician with the TSC. Willie, as he prefers to be called, started working for the garrison in 1981 and has seen several evolutions of technology come through his shop but nowadays most of his time is spent trouble shooting equipment and working with contractors to get equipment operating effectively enough to be used in training for Soldiers.
Willie travels anywhere there is equipment to be repaired and even gives "train the trainer" classes for Soldiers who are going to be operating equipment such as the EST during weekend battle training assemblies, or drills. "Most of our customers here (Fort Buchanan) are Reservists," said Willie.
Training Soldiers is what drives the staff of the TSC. "Our mission is to give training aid support and devices to the armed forces ... we support all of the armed forces island wide, to include St. Croix," said Alfredo Ferrer Santiago, training aids manager for the TSC.
Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Ferrer said things in the TSC have changed. While the average Soldier might take for granted the comfort of training on computer simulators Ferrer said things weren't always so easy. "We used to have rubber made training devices and now we have simulators like the engagement skills trainer," said Ferrer.
The TSC also has simulators available for roll over drills and "call for fire" exercises. A peek inside the warehouse of the TSC reveals dozens of pallet racks and shelves packed with items like dummies for first aid training, weapons, Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System 2000 sets and training presentation easels, all available for units to sign out.
With each new piece of equipment TSC staff receive new equipment training themselves to ensure they are familiar with the latest technology, which Ferrer said is not likely to stop.
"What I see on the horizon is going to be an increase in the use of all of these simulators because the intention of the training systems now is that before Soldiers go to war they have training in the most realistic scenarious of war," said Ferrer, a 38-year employee of the garrison.
Mario Morales, a longtime employee of Fort Buchanan but new supply technician with the TSC, is aware of the demands on the TSC and keeps track of new equipment and, turns in obsolete items. On a brief tour of the warehouse, Morales pointed to the stacks of old equipment he was readying for turn in and had neatly stacked new equipment for storage.
"Units will come to us to sign out equipment by putting in an advanced request," said Morales.
Advance notice is important because that way he said he can be sure to order the appropriate amount for the requesting unit. "We continue restocking again and again as the items go out," he said.
While the equipment training the staff imparts to young Soldiers is required as a part of their jobs, Willie said sometimes he likes to encourage Soldiers to mentor each other.
"When they are out on the range and one guy is not shooting right and the rest of them make fun of him I go up and I go 'hey don't do that, you may be out on a convoy out in Afghanistan ... and somehting happens to you vehicle and the only one left who can fire might be this guy,' when you get down to training for defending yourself take everything you can ... and if someone has problems don't laugh at him, help him," said Willie.
He had seen Soldiers with lacsadasical attitudes in the past but noticed a real change right around Operation Desert Storm. "From then to now its changed alot," he said.
And with the change comes a training support center ready answer the call for service members heading down range.