By Dawn M Arden (Leonard Wood)October 19, 2017
Fort Leonard Wood's Engagement Skills Training systems provide many benefits to Soldiers, units, the installation and the Army. Use of the ESTs is nothing new, but the fiscal benefits they provide increase with each passing year, especially as the Army end strength increases.
During fiscal year 2017, more than 108,000 Soldiers trained on ESTs across the installation. With 10 different weapons being trained on, the installation saved the Army approximately $10.8 million in ammo costs alone.
"Just for the M4s in FY17, we saved the Army $1,798,274," said James Nutt, EST supervisor. "Yesterday alone, we shot 31,770 M4 rounds, so we saved $9,541, and that was just three basic training units."
In addition to monetary savings, another benefit is how these systems assist in the training of new Soldiers. Those who have never held a weapon before joining the military are getting the opportunity to become familiar with the weapon before visiting the live-fire range.
"Basically they are here for the privates to learn marksmanship skills before they go out to the live-fire range," Nutt said. "A lot of them have never handled a weapon before. This is a very safe, controlled environment. When the civilian is operating the system, the drill sergeant has time to work with whomever needs help the most on the fire-line, to help them achieve the needed skills before they shoot real rounds."
Staff Sgt. Travis Barr, Company C, 31st Engineer Battalion drill sergeant, said the systems give them more opportunities and time to work with the Soldiers in training, allowing them to make corrections more efficiently.
"We can see downrange feedback right away instead of walking downrange. The instructors can pull up data and we can see where their site pictures are, how they align their sites, their breathing -- as far as fundamentals, it helps with all of that," Barr said. "The instructor will pull it up on the system and we'll see how their breathing is changing their site picture. We see how their trigger squeeze is, and if making them jerk left or if it's correct."
Nutt said he can see a difference between the units that come in only for the regularly scheduled times and those that have drill sergeants who sign the systems out on nights and weekends for reinforcement training.
"If I have a facility open, not being used by another basic training unit, during inclement weather they can come in here and practice," Nutt said.
Nutt said the newer EST systems also include military police specific training scenarios and video scenarios for team or squad leaders getting ready for patrol.
All systems also allow for the operators to control and change the weather and environmental effects to make it more realistic.