By Jennifer Mattson, NCO JournalMarch 14, 2012
FORT BLISS, Texas (March 14, 2012) -- When Soldiers enter the training environment, it's important that their experience is as close as possible to situations they'll encounter in combat. The Army has invested a considerable amount of money to make training more realistic to better help Soldiers when they deploy.
Units gearing up for combat have used equipment as varied as Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement Systems -- laser tag-like devices commonly referred to as MILES gear -- and paintball weapons to provide a realistic training environment.
Lately, the Army has invested in Ultimate Training Munitions technology. With this new training gear, the bolts of Soldiers' M4s are changed out, allowing them to train with the same weapon they'll carry downrange. But neither the training bolt nor the training magazine can be used with live rounds, making training safer.
Sgt. Maj. Corbett Whitmore, the 1st Armored Division's 2011 Expert Infantry Badge, or EIB, qualification event president, used this technology during EIB qualifications Dec. 12-16 at Fort Bliss, Texas.
"Nothing is a better reinforcement than pain," Whitmore said. "And if you get hit, then you know you got hit. With MILES, you get a beep, but you don't know how you got hit or where you got hit. Out here, if you get hit in the arm, you get an arm injury and you have to assess that. If you get hit in the chest, then it's a kill. It's instant feedback, and it's a lot more accurate than using a paintball gun."
Sgt. Caleb Clark, the ammunition NCO for the 1st Armored Division's EIB qualification event, said the new technology allows Soldiers to continue training even if they've been hit.
"The biggest difference between the old ammo and this new stuff is the velocity," Clark said. "The old stuff had a higher velocity. It flew at 750 to 800 feet per second. This is only 325 to 350 feet per second. It hurts a lot less. Guys would get pretty serious types of injuries from the old [simulation] rounds."
Though the UTM rounds are designed to provide realistic training, Soldiers are required to wear a face mask, eye protection and gloves when operating with or around the equipment. In addition, they must clean their weapon with a clean, dry cloth instead of using oil.
"[The bullet is] like lipstick; it gets pushed forward, and it marks," Clark said. "The old stuff had liquid inside it and it had to burst on impact. When it would freeze, it would be frozen hard, it wouldn't work right, and it hurt a lot worse. This stuff, they can heat it to 160 degrees, and they can freeze it down to 20 below. It's still going to work."
The new UTM rounds are available now through Training Support Centers Armywide. Units can draw the rounds from their local ammunition supply point