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Infantry Immersion Trainer gets thumbs up

15 Apr 2009 | Lance Cpl. Zachary J. Nola

As the nature of wars change, so must the way Marines train to fight those wars.

The Infantry Immersion Trainer, located here at the San Mateo training area, is such an example of how the Marine Corps is adapting its training regime to ensure modern day Marines are prepared to bring the fight to the enemy.

The mission of the IIT is to create realistic scenarios for squads to run through based on their unit’s training objectives. Training syllabi are tailored to what units want to train on, what standard they wish to train to, and with a large focus on enhancing the decision-making skills of squad and team leaders in a stressful and realistic environment.

Scenarios can range from meet-and-greet missions to highly-complex ambushes involving rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices and small-arms fire.

To create a realistic atmosphere, the trainer incorporates Arabic speaking role players, small-effects small-arms munitions rounds, AK-47’s that fire blanks, authentic regional music and simulated RPGs and IEDs.

It is because of this realism and attention to detail that many of the company’s NCOs had positive remarks about the immersion trainer.

“The situations are pretty realistic and you have a lot to choose from,” said Sgt. Luke Ashley, a platoon sergeant with Co. F, from Custer, Okla. “Using SESAM rounds and actually seeing an impact, you actually know ‘Hey, I really did just get shot,’ instead of hearing ‘bang, bang’ or blanks going off.”

Seeing rounds hit their brothers-in-arms lets those involved know how serious the affects of combat can be.

“You can actually tell ‘hey, guys are dying’ instead of the normal ‘hey, you might be dead,’” said Ashley, who has deployed once in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Ashley was not the only Marine to praise the trainer’s authenticity. 

“It’s very helpful. There are a lot of real situation scenarios that give us the right atmosphere,” said Sgt. Javier Fuentes, a squad leader with Co. F, from Los Angeles. “From the music to the role players, it gives you a close-to-reality situation where you are on the move and have to dictate on the move.”

These accurate situations also help the more experienced Marines, like Fuentes, train junior, less-experienced Marines.

“It’s very helpful, especially with the wars we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Fuentes, who has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. “We used to have paper targets, but now we have actual real-life role players in there and it’s very helpful.”

During the training, noncommissioned officers used the exercise to stress how important proper communication, a well-executed combat glide, and such tactics as fire-and-maneuver, can be to survival and mission success.

“It’s about making them understand the level of frustration they are going to go through during the real thing and making them think outside the box,” said Sgt. Juan Morales, a squad leader with Co. F, from Hollywood, Calif. “It’s the closest you get to the real thing.”

This is why the Infantry Immersion Trainer is a useful ally to all Marines, regardless of military occupational specialty or experience level.

“It’s good for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’ve deployed or not,” said Morales, who has deployed to Iraq twice.

Due to the positive response to the trainer there are plans to expand the IIT’s current facility and build a second, larger version of the trainer to create even more realistic training situations and prepare future servicemembers for combat.