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Repetitive, realistic training key.

When Medal of Honor recipient SFC Leroy Petry realized his hand had just been blown off while he tried to throw an enemy hand grenade from harm's way, one thing kept him executing his mission and directing his men while under extreme stress. He said it was a natural reaction for him because his training took over. Likewise, Petry recently advised a class of U.S. Military Academy cadets to make Soldier training as realistic as possible once they reached their units.


Fortunately, in the current high-tech Army, training simulators help those young lieutenants do just that. These high-fidelity simulators are what have helped our tank, Bradley, and aviation communities become so lethal. Simply put, simulated training provides a replication of reality that has never before been experienced in the Army's training environment.

Simulators such as the Advanced Gunnery Training System and Bradley Advanced Training System have given U.S. combat Soldiers the fighting edge. Through the repetitious learning experience the simulators provide, the ability to work the weapon systems is so ingrained in a Soldier's mind that they can perform all their vital roles and put steel on target as if it's second nature.

That same level of training is absolutely critical to our dismounted squads when they engage the enemy with small arms. They need to have a blink-of-an-eye reaction when they send a round down range without having to remember to concentrate on the "breathe, aim, squeeze" tenets of achieving excellence in marksmanship.

Today's squad or team leader must be able to detect, direct, report, and engage the enemy simultaneously. Every member of that squad must be so well trained in marksmanship that when they go through the motions of firing their weapons in the heat of battle, it's as natural as blinking. So how do we ensure that every member of a squad, as well as every Soldier in the Army, undergoes repetitious small arms marksmanship training to get them to an optimal level without breaking the commander's training budget? The use of training simulators has been proven time and again to be not only an excellent training tool that has significantly elevated the marksmanship accuracy of our Soldiers but is also extremely cost effective while saving lives, time, and equipment wear and tear.

The Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) 2000 simulates weapon-training events that lead to individual and crew live-fire weapons qualifications. It provides initial and sustainment marksmanship training, static unit collective gunnery and tactical training, and shoot/don't shoot training. This training is so realistic that it is used in the Army's annual Best Warrior Competition.

Unfortunately, it sits idle too often at our bases around the world. We need to put our Soldiers in the EST 2000 with their NCOs and use the range-training scenarios to refine their hand and eye coordination, and build the muscle memory required for instinctive reaction when firing their weapons. Units who consistently include the EST 2000 on their training schedules are finding it a valuable element in their training tool box.

The commander of 418th Civil Affairs Battalion in Kansas City recently recognized the value of the simulator when he learned his unit would not receive range ammunition for its battle assembly. He turned to the EST 2000 to keep from canceling the unit's scheduled M-16 rifle qualifications. Thanks to the simulator, 90 percent of his Soldiers qualified on the M-16 that day.

Through the use of the EST 2000 and the next generation of small arms training simulators, we can change our Soldiers' small arms proficiency by removing the psychological barriers of shooting while correcting the tendency of many Soldiers, new and experienced, to jerk instead of squeezing the trigger. The EST 2000 can also:


* Teach off-handed shooting in a safe, sterile environment prior to taking Soldiers to live fire.

* Work reflexive fire skills until Soldiers become honed in the close-up, 100-meter fight found in today's combat arena.

* Teach the skill of scan and shoot with both eyes open in the close fight.

* Instill confidence in the Soldiers' abilities to shoot, move, and communicate.

A key added benefit of training on the EST 2000 that cannot be replicated during live-fire training is the use of avatars and smart, interactive targets that will begin the process of preparing our Soldiers for the mental aspect of engaging the enemy. When an avatar can groan and blood splatters from the hit, the Soldiers are being exposed to the realities of combat before they are exposed to it the first time in a live, direct-fire engagement. This is critical to enabling them to deal with shock and continue to fight.

The difference in the future of our small arms engagement is going to hinge upon the Army embracing the training simulators to gain the trigger-time required to make our Soldiers the best small arms marksmen on the face of the earth--that's what will give us the decisive advantage in the close fight.

When there is an event involving small arms, our Soldiers should be the first to shoot and kill the enemy with lethal accuracy every time they squeeze the trigger. Skills gleaned through repetitive, realistic training in simulators will achieve that goal.


SGM Patrick Ogden is the senior enlisted advisor for the U.S. Army Program Executive Officer for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI). SGM Ogden's career in the Infantry has included assignments as a division master gunner, a drill sergeant, a first sergeant, and a regimental operations sergeant major. He has completed three combat tours.
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Title Annotation:Training Notes
Author:Ogden, Patrick M.
Publication:Infantry Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 2012
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