FORT HOOD, Texas - Just a few weeks after returning from a well-earned vacation, the troops from Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, are already getting back in the driver's seat.

Roughly three dozen Soldiers from the company trained up on movement drills, reaction to contact and communication while training on virtual M-1 Abrams at the Close Combat Tactical Training facility March 5.

This facility is unlike many others on post. Rather than rolling down a dusty trail and blasting off hundreds of live rounds Soldiers are immersed into a three-dimensional world set up to replicate real battlefield conditions without many of the hazards they might find in the field.

According to program directors, the system can be custom-tailored to fit the commander's training plan.

On the outside, the large plastic boxes hardly look like training aids. However, step inside there is an almost exact replica of the cockpit and gunners turret found in the real tanks. Everything happens in real time giving Soldiers the experience of moving together as a team or engaging a real enemy.

"It's still a very helpful tool. Drills like movement and actions on contact have to become second nature and this helps make that possible," said Staff Sgt. Antwan Smittie, the company's master gunner who calls Little Rock, Ark., home.

This is the first of many training exercises for the company out of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, according to the commander, Capt. Miguel Juarez.

Juarez, a Brownsville, Texas, native, said the training is useful for several reasons with familiarization being at the top of the list. While in Iraq, most of the company's movements were accomplished with humvees not the massive tanks they were trained on before deploying.

While in Iraq, the Company C "Cobras" were in charge of manning Combat Outpost Cobra in southeastern Baghdad and conducting almost daily patrols in the city.

Now that they've returned, the company begins a transformation much like other units in the 1st Cavalry Division. Many troops would soon be changing stations, going to school or getting out altogether.

He said that many of the Soldiers training on the virtual course were guys who would be staying with the unit for another possible rotation, so they would be able to train newer, more inexperienced Soldiers in the near future when they arrive.

"I'll be losing about half my company soon and this helps create a more cohesive team that'll be able to train the newer Soldiers when they arrive," he said.

Weapons qualifications, gunneries, days in the field and a trip to the National Training Center are in the future for the Cobras, he said.

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