FORT SILL, Okla., Jan. 17, 2019 -- The Air Defense Artillery (ADA) School conducted a grand opening ceremony for its new Counter-Rocket Artillery Mortar (C-RAM) classrooms and Virtual Maintenance Trainers here, Dec. 11.

The new classrooms feature 36 virtual C-RAM trainers, which are a computer-generated program similar to high-end reality video games. The virtual maintenance trainers, located at the C-RAM General Instructional Facility off Miner Road, provide the same functionality as the actual C-RAM system, without the risk of physically damaging equipment.

They maximize students' training time before they work on the actual C-RAM system. Instructors can also program faults into the virtual systems, providing students scenarios to practice preventive maintenance and troubleshooting procedures.

Air and Missile Defense (AMD) crewmembers (Military Occupational Speciality 14P) are trained on the C-RAM weapon system at the ADA School. The school currently has two C-RAM physical guns which 14P students train on. The 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade is expecting to train up to 500 AMD students during fiscal 2019.

The ceremony was well attended and conducted in front of the towering C-RAM weapon system. Soldiers, industry partners, and retirees who served in C-RAM units filled the classroom.

"Today is a celebration of what can be achieved when requirements and the acquisitions community work together," said Lt. Col. Steven Gutierrez, virtual training systems product manager. "The fielding of the C-RAM land-based phalanx weapon system operator/maintenance trainer provides the capability to comprehensively train Soldiers on full-spectrum operations."

Col. Scott McLeod, virtual training systems product manager, said the training facility will contribute to Army readiness.

"These [C-RAM] classrooms for Air and Missile Defense crewmembers contribute directly to creating an overall level of readiness," McLeod said. "We are proud to provide this powerful training capability and look forward to our key partnership both with our industry teammates, TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command) Capability Managers and the Fires Center of Excellence."

McLeod presented a signed C-RAM print to commemorate the occasion to Brig. Gen. Brian Gibson, Air Defense Artillery School commandant and chief of ADA. The print reflected the impressive nighttime engagements associated with the 20mm tracer rounds of the C-RAM system.

"There is no other place we would like to be than here, and have the opportunity to bring a growth capability and bring it to bear for the benefit for our Soldiers, especially for those doing the work downrange protecting Soldiers every day 24/7/365," said Gibson. "Let's celebrate today, but let's not rest on our laurels for whatever we need to produce, let's make it matter."

The first C-RAM engagement occurred March 15, 2006, when insurgents fired mortars at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Balad, Iraq. All mortars launched against the U.S. occupied FOB Balad were intercepted by C Battery, 5th Battalion, 5th ADA.

In the first 10 years of the C-RAM deployments, the system has protected forces from over 300 intercepts and provided 5,000 localized warnings, allowing troops to take protective cover.