MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Fallujah, Iraq, is more than 5,000 miles away, but in a dark room surrounded by movie screens, Marines were able to simulate patrolling in a convoy ready to engage enemy fighters in the battle weary town.
Marines of 1st and 2nd Combined Anti-Armor Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, conducted simulated convoy operations in the Combat Convoy Simulator aboard Camp Las Pulgas here, July 25.
The $5.5 million virtual reality training facility projects digital environments on movie screens which simulate combat scenarios such as high-value target extractions, patrols, medical evacuations and calls for close-air support. The projected environments can mimic the clime and place of Afghanistan or Iraq. The training helped 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, prepare for an upcoming deployment in support of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“The scenarios in the Combat Convoy Simulator are based on actual events that have happened in country,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Hoefler, a section leader serving with 2nd CAAT and native of Lake Elsinore, Calif. “The training here is designed to have a certain level of stress to it and be comparable to what you might experience in combat. We’re trying to train our new Marines to become more comfortable with stressful situations so if they find themselves in one, they will be prepared.”
Nearly 30 Marines can train simultaneously in two seven-ton trucks and four humvees in each of the two simulator buildings in the facility. Each vehicle can be seen on the 360-degree screen and can interact with one another during training scenarios.
Marines in the CCS never know what to expect because the simulator operator can throw a different situation at them by placing improvised explosive device indicators on roadsides or send squads of insurgents to attack the convoy.
“The training here really keeps you on your toes and keeps everyone engaged,” said Lance Cpl. Dason Ott, a vehicle commander serving with 2nd CAAT and native of Kanab, Utah. “When we train on ranges performing the same drills time after time, you can lose focus because you know exactly what’s going to happen or where a target is going to appear. The unknown factor is a huge benefit to our training and is something we don’t normally experience.”
To provide an even more realistic experience, pressurized air generates recoil in the weapons after every round fired.The wireless weapons actively engage computer-generated enemy insurgents on the screen and the Marines can visually see where their shots impact in real time, Hoefler said.
Another advantage of the CCS is the caliber of after action review. From verbal communication to individual shots fired, everything is recorded on camera or in the computer system. The recordings of each team during scenarios can provide instant feedback, give visual aid to any mistakes that may have occurred and can be replayed in the future to teach new Marines.
“With the Marine Corps undergoing spending cuts, the CCS allows for cost-effective training,” Hoefler said. “While engaging Marines in a realistic training environment, it saves time, maintenance, ammunition and weapons.”
Marines completed their training at the CCS after three continuous days. First and 2nd CAAT are slated to continue a high-tempo training schedule before deploying in support of the 31st MEU later this year.