By Geoffrey Roper, Fort Carson MountaineerJune 30, 2010
FORT CARSON, Colo.---Engineers stationed at Fort Carson could always train in real vehicles with real weapons. Now, they also have the ability to train in a virtual world, thanks to computer simulators that can mimic the recoil of a rifle or even the rumbling of a vehicle driving down bumpy roads.
Raydon Corporation provides simulation training designed for engineers to virtually prepare for route clearance, clearing improvised explosive devices or other explosives on roads for future convoys, task forces or civilians, and it can all be done in the safety of a trailer here at Fort Carson.
The virtual simulator contains a map of Iraq, with authentic road systems, terrain features and buildings. It is so accurate, that Soldiers who have been to Iraq often recognize features and buildings they saw while deployed.
"It's as close to the real thing as you can get without being in the real thing," said Vince Kelly, senior trainer, Raydon Corporation.
Soldiers can sit in mock vehicles that have all the same weapons and instruments as the real thing. They also can wear head-mounted devices that allow them into the virtual world, where turning their heads in any direction allows them to see the entire field of sight 360-degrees. It is so realistic, the gunner's perspective is even different from the driver's, since in the real world the gunner would be sitting higher up in the vehicle.
The system has the ability to replicate actual situations Soldiers face in theater. The 50-caliber machine gun will go through its loading procedure, charging of the charging handle, users feel the recoil of the weapon as it fires, mimic the reloading procedure and can even redistribute ammunition.
"As they're going through their training event, they're going to encounter the same stuff they are going to encounter when they're in a real world mission," said Kelly.
The system is capable of simulating a Husky mine detection vehicle, an RG-31 vehicle used for security and a Buffalo vehicle, used to interrogate IEDs.
"They're honing their crew coordination skills within that vehicle. They're understanding the capabilities of that vehicle, driving on different terrain in different conditions, such as night, day, fog, rain, snow, mud. Whatever the case may be, our system can mimic it," said Kelly.
The virtual system has both pre-set scenarios and those created for specific units training on it. The trainer can increase the amounts of IEDs, offer additional air support, add multiple civilians mingling with enemy combatants and even add unmanned aerial vehicles.
Kelly said the advantages of using the simulator are numerous, including saving the Army costs associated with fuel, weapons, wear and tear on actual vehicles, and even injuries to Soldiers.
"Before they are out in the actual vehicle, burning gas and training time downrange, they can come through here, go through our crew course and learn about the system. So, they can go through all of their tactics, techniques and procedures, and their battle drills, and understand while actually driving the vehicle in a controlled environment. Not out in the field, not using gas, not using ammunition, just the pennies of electricity costs," said Kelly.
Soldiers can work on crew coordination, vehicle operation and vehicle knowledge, encompassing individual and collective tasks.
Kelly said the most important feature is obvious.
"We can go through and we can run missions, and you can die a thousand times in this system. And if dying a thousand times here prevents one person from dying in the real world, we've accomplished our mission," he said.