Video games take on a new reality

25 Sep 2003 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

It could be considered one of the most realistic video games available.  Modeled after actual combat missions, the Full Crew Interactive Simulation Trainer offers some of the most realistic battle-sequences that can be found on any gaming system.

Marines of Company C, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion here used simulation training recently to hone their skills in distinguishing enemy vehicles and firing the a M-242, 25 mm weapons systems organic to a light armored vehicle.

During the fight to gain control of An Nasiriyah and other cities during Operation Iraqi Freedom, there were reports of friendly fire injuring Americans, said Lance Cpl. Ben E. Johnson, a light armored vehicle gunner with the battalion and native of Kingston, Ill.  "Using this training, we can learn how to identify targets at a distance, so we don't hurt anyone with friendly fire.  That's what we're trying to do with this training."

The simulation training is part of a three-week evolution involving one week of class time, where Marines refresh their LAV gunnery skills.  Capable of top speeds of 64 miles per hour, the eight-wheeled LAV is the main vehicle used by this battalion.  The second week is focused on simulation training, where everyone, regardless of their job within the vehicle, becomes competent in sighting targets and firing the 25 mm gun.  The third week is when the training is taken to the field, and Marines complete live-fire missions tying together all of what they have learned during the previous two weeks.

"More than anything else, the simulation training identifies problems the Marines have after being away from the guns for so long," said Staff Sgt. Nelson A. Hidalgo, a platoon sergeant with the company.  "Often people blame the guns for any misses, but nine times out of 10 it's because of them."

Hidalgo explained that the gun inside an LAV is much different from the guns on most tanks.  The 25 mm gun requires all the same techniques used when firing a rifle, including trigger control and breath relaxation.

"This gun isn't automatic, where you just have to point a laser in the general direction of the target.  These vehicles were made in the 1980s and don't have high-tech weapons systems," said Hidalgo.

Although actual gunnery firing on ranges is conducted twice a year with each Marine, the simulation center is open for LAR Marines year-round.  Platoons can come for extra training and keep their skills in peak condition.

"A big part of our training involves identifying what you're seeing.  We have to know what the silhouettes of enemy and friendly vehicles look like, so we know who to fire on, even at night," added Hidalgo.

He added the simulation training helps break the monotony for the Marines.  When most of their time is spend maintaining the vehicles, it is good for Marines to get as much hands on with the weapons systems as possible, he said.

Marines from the company agree the simulation training is helping them in their marksmanship skills and making them more comfortable with their vehicles.

"We need all the hands-on experience we can get if we want to do our job well.  Knowing the slight difference between one vehicle shape and another could save someone's life," said Lance Cpl. Brett S. Wildebaur, an LAV crewman and native of Bullhead City, Ariz.  "Doing it on a regular basis would be best.  That way, we'll be confident when we have to use the weapon in combat."