With a blast of gunfire, Soldiers fired not bullets, but lasers at Fort Belvoir's Essential Skills Trainer simulated marksmanship range Oct. 25.
The noise is one of many factors that make the indoor range seem like the real thing -- such as the M9 pistols, M16 rifles and M60 machine guns that are identical to actual weapons, down the weight of the cartridges -- except for the fact that they don't require bullets.
"It's cost-saving equipment that is as close to the real thing as they're going to get," said Dana Winslett, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security range specialist on Fort Belvoir.
About 6,000 servicemembers and law enforcement personnel from Fort Belvoir and surrounding installations use the EST each year, Winslett said, as an alternate to driving to the nearest live-fire range at Fort A.P. Hill or Marine Corps Base, Quantico.
The simulated weapons meet the Army specifics for operation, weight and functions, and offer training year round, without the logistical requirements of an actual range, Winslett said.
They even kick back like real weapons and make the same noise, although the volume can be controlled in the enclosed space.
"I think it's great for familiarization," said 1st Lt. Katty Velezrivas, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, Warrior Transition Brigade, who has trained on the M60, M4 and M16 at the EST. "You can adjust in a more comfortable environment, so when you actually go out there to qualify, you are already so comfortable with your weapon."
Units can book the five-lane Essential Skills Trainer, or EST 2000, to qualify on the M9, or practice shoot/don't-shoot scenarios and small-unit tactics with the weapons they would have in the field, Winslett said.
The EST 2000 also saves the Department of Defense money that would have been spent on the ammunition, transportation fuel, medical support, and personnel needed to conduct a live fire range, Velezrivas said.
"Logistically, it is definitely an asset, because now you need fewer personnel to transport ammo and fewer personnel to run the range," she said.
"You can have it open for longer times, and weather wouldn't have an impact either, so you can train no matter what the weather is," she added. "It's just a win-win all around."
The EST 2000 is in Building 1139 (next to Warrior Training Center) behind the South Post Shoppette.
For more information, call DPTMS at (703) 805-5216.