By Sam Campbell (Leonard Wood)August 23, 2019
As part of a directive established by former Defense Secretary James Mattis requiring Soldiers to experience 25 "bloodless battles" before entering their first live-fire conflict, Fort Leonard Wood will hold demonstrations at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Aug. 29 at Building 1000 for its newest piece of training technology, the Squad Advanced Marksmanship Trainer, or SAM-T.
According to instructors and official literature, the SAM-T will provide teams with a modular, three-screen digital environment in which they can practice dismounted, mobile, individual and collective tasks.
Some of these tasks include engaging targets with exact-weight replicas of M4 carbines and M9 sidearms, correcting weapon malfunctions during shootouts, and entering and clearing rooms in the u-shaped screen orientation.
"This is advanced marksmanship (training), so the Soldier can be moving and the target moving at the same time," said Training Support Center Training Instructor Hershel Lester. "(Soldiers) are clearing rooms and targets can show up on the left side or the right side and flank them."
"It's not to replace basic marksmanship (training), or the EST," Lester added. "But once they get the basics down, it's to add to their weapons skills."
The value in this training, instructors said, is that it provides immediate feedback, and it represents a lower-risk alternative to having Soldiers move and shoot simultaneously at a live fire range, which uses costly ammunition instead of the condensed air canisters present in SAM-T weapons.
In addition to reacting to real-time, on-screen threats, Soldiers will be tasked with accurately communicating amidst blaring and intentionally confusing background noise, like urban chaos following the beginning of a firefight.
Michael Akins, an instructor for the contracting company overseeing SAM-T's implementation, said the goal is to get Soldiers to think on their feet during times of intense stress.
"We're trying to get them to that same point they do in combat," he said.
He further explained that during combat the heartrate increases and adrenaline overtakes the mind and body.
Akins commented on the environmental factors that have been programmed into this digital training.
"On the screens, we can have it snow (or) rain," he said. "If you shoot a bullet, whatever the wind speed will affect your target."
Instructors can add stress to the scenarios by increasing noise, causing weapon malfunctions or ammo shortages, or including extreme inclement weather -- all from the computer running the software.
"(A Soldier) may have a 30-round magazine, I could put a misfire at 10 (rounds) and then once he does the corrective action for a misfire, he can fire another 20 rounds," Instructor Thomas McCool added.
In total, the software includes 36 different scenarios, from a firing range to a hostage situation, and officials say more can be added at teams' requests given four to six weeks of notice.
The SAM-T will be immediately available for training following the demonstration, and its longevity here depends on how widely it is used, Akins said. It is available for use for all military schools.