By Ms. Marie Berberea (TRADOC)January 20, 2011
Basic Combat Training Soldiers are hitting targets on Fort Sill without ever firing a bullet.
The Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 allows Soldiers to do this as they file in from the bright outdoors into the dark room lit by large projector screens. Their targets are set on the screens and the Soldiers take aim using simulated M-16 or M-4 rifles.
On Jan. 14, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery used the training system as two different batteries went through Basic Rifle Marksmanship and Advanced Rifle Marksmanship.
"The first thing they do is get the fundamentals of range procedures," said Drill Sgt. (Staff Sgt.) Javier Camacho, G Battery, 1st-79th FA. "This is the first time they're shooting something like this and applying what we've been teaching them for the past three weeks."
The Soldiers practice safety first by correctly handling the weapon at all times and making sure the magazines are properly seated or discharged. When they fire the weapon there is a recoil just as there would be with an actual weapon only no round flies out of the chamber. So in effect there's less clean up, but the training is just as realistic.
"What this does is it gives them a little more confidence on the fundamentals we've taught them. They're not lost. they're able to say, OK now I know what drill sergeant was talking about when we say hey it's your trigger squeeze, or your breathing," said Camacho.
While his Soldiers practiced grouping and zeroing, Camacho added this new technology is giving Soldiers better training than before.
"When I came in, you had a broomstick looking deal and you shot with it. At least they are able to hold an M-16 or an M-4 and they're able to hear and feel what it's like."
Across the graveled complex, A Battery was training in their seventh week. 1st Lt. Daniel Pickering, A/1-79 FA company commander, said their mission was to learn escalation of force.
Inside the simulator, five Soldiers took their places on the firing line while 25 others looked on. The screens played out one of six scenarios testing to see if they could determine friend from foe and react accordingly.
Images from Iraqi streets played out as the Soldiers kept their eyes fixated for danger. The Soldiers had to react using the stop, show, shove, shoot method.
"At some point an enemy combatant will engage or try to engage with our Soldiers or show threat of violence. The Soldiers will then try to engage the enemy without any collateral damage, killing any civilians," said Pickering.
Before the trainees step foot into these simulated situations they are first trained on who exactly is an enemy target.
"A lot of times a Soldier will come in and say 'If I see an Iraqi I'm going to shoot because all Iraqis are enemies,' but they're not. They do culture classes where they learn everyone carries an AK-47 and that's fine; that's what they do over there and just because they're carrying an AK-47 doesn't mean they're an enemy," said Pickering.
After they've assessed the situation and fired, the controller plays back the scene showing where every round landed.
"The EST (2000) is one of the best things I've seen so far because of the instantaneous feedback," said Camacho.
When the enemy target is shown on the screen during this playback different numbers flash over it portraying who reacted first and with the most accuracy. One very accurate shooter was Pvt. Dimitrious Wright, A Battery, 1st-79th FA.
"Everything was coming so fast. It's like drinking from a fire hose with everything coming at you at once but you just try to do your best," said Wright.
Although the simulator may seem like an advanced video game, the 18-year-old said it was a lot more intense.
"I play 'Call of Duty' every once in a while, like every other teenager, but you're more careless back home. Here you have to be more cautious. You have to think more."
As far as how Wright believes this will prepare him for future deployments, he believes it's the best training the Army can offer.
"I don't think anything is going to be actually the same as real life, but I think this is the closest to it."