FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As Master Sgt. Denise Underwood, a paralegal with the 81st Regional Support Command, was reading the summer edition of Warrior Citizen Magazine, she came across a story about a Mobile Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 (EST 2000). She made a phone call to the number provided and after a bit of coordination via the chain of command, the Mobile EST 2000 showed up in the parking lot of the 81st RSC, making the Wildcats the first RSC to utilize the service from September 24-27.
The concept, developed by the Israeli Defense Forces, is to put a five-lane EST 2000 onto a semi trailer that can be driven anywhere to provide marksmanship training and even qualification to units in areas where a range or post EST is not close by. The trailer opens up at the side walls and can accommodate various shooting scenarios from battle sight zero, qualification to actual battle events utilizing the M9 pistol, M16A2 and M4 rifles, as well as machine guns.
"Soldiers get a chance to fire weapons that they normally don't get to shoot," said 81st Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Wills. "Not only does the M-EST 2000 better prepare a Soldier for the crawl, walk, run of marksmanship training, it [the system] also saves resources, time and money," he added.
"You don't have to worry about running out of ammo," said Robert Burton, the product manager for the system. "I used to not like simulators," said Burton, a former Cavalry troop. "Now I see the value. You have environment control and you get positive feedback [from the computer] that you won't get on the range."
Underwood also cited the unlimited (virtual) ammunition and the convenience. "It's great to have someone pull up in a trailer and have the system in your parking lot."
The M-EST 2000 is the only one there is and is a prototype on a ten-month "proof of principle" test to determine the system's value to the Army. "These tests are meant to show a need in the Army Reserve, Guard and active component, to kick the tires to see if this is something the Army wants to spend money on." Underwood said. "Sometimes we can't get to a real range, and other times just we get bumped."
There were several satisfied customers over the four days the M-EST 2000 was at the 81st, including the 310th Human Resources Support Center, the 7226th Medical Support Unit and Soldiers competing in the Sgt. Audie Murphy competition.
"I don't think there will be a problem with wanting or needing," said Burton, who has traveled to several other states and run hundreds of Soldiers and ROTC cadets through the M-EST 2000 since the project went into action in April of this year. The Chief of the Army Reserve (CAR) has seen the M-EST 2000 and according to Burton wants one in each region.