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Guard's 35th Engineer Brigade uses simulator for firing range preparation
Guard's 35th Engineer Brigade uses simulator for firing range preparation

Spc. James Brinkley, of Rolla, prepares to fire an MK-19 grenade launcher using the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 on Saturday at Fort Leonard Wood. Brinkley said he liked to fire the MK-19 most because of its brute force.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Jan. 12, 2010) — The Missouri National Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 35th Engineer Brigade opened its 2010 training calendar by utilizing the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 on Saturday near its home armory on post.

From zeroing weapons to qualifying on pop up targets, whatever a Guardsman can do on a weapons range can be accomplished by using the trainer.

Another advantage is that indoor training avoids outdoor weather issues. With the cold temperatures outside, Spc. Steven Bain, of Waynesville, said he simply enjoyed the hands-on training indoors.

The simulator provides soldiers with realistic marksmanship and combat scenario training using a wide range of weapons. The unit worked with the M-2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun, the M-249 squad automatic weapon, the MK-19 grenade launcher, the M-16 rifle and the M-9 9mm pistol. The targets are projected onto a large screen and lasers are mounted on the front of the weapons. Where the lasers hit the screen is recorded by a computer and instructors can give instant feedback on how soldiers need to adjust their aim.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Doty, the unit's readiness and training noncommissioned officer, said the goal for the training was familiarization with the different weapons before going out to a live range.

"I think the trainer gets them back in the mindset of what they need to do to effectively fire each weapon — their technique, form, breathing and squeeze," Doty said. "That way when they do get on the live-fire range, it's not a shock to them anymore. They can go back to knowing what adjustments they need to make, if any."

Overall, Doty, of Ozark, was pleased with how well the company did.

"We did a lot better than I expected on the first go around," he said. "They did well."

Guardsmen used the M-16 and the simulator to complete the nuclear, chemical, biological weapons qualification — firing at targets while wearing an M-40 gas mask — and their night firing qualification — shooting at targets in the dark — just as they would on a regular range. Those two are the only areas soldiers can qualify on using the trainer — normal qualification must be completed on a live-fire range.

"That's challenging," said Bain about the adjustments needed for night fire and gas mask qualifying. "You have to kind of angle the weapon a little bit and put it on the larger site aperture when shooting wearing the mask. You're also not used to it because it's hard to breathe with a mask on.

"On the night fire, it's about the same thing but you don't have to cock the weapon to the side."

Although she did well enough to qualify, Sgt. Jessica Reyes, of Fort Leonard Wood, said she struggled on the night fire training where soldiers are asked to return fire at tiny, flashing dots — simulating enemy fire — on a dark screen in a pitch-black room.

"Those little dots were too hard for me to see, but other than that, I felt it was pretty close to being on a real range," Reyes said.

The added bonus of the system is that it can simulate combat with any number or combination of infantry, armor and aircraft in a variety of weather and terrain. Soldiers can go through the scenarios individually or as a squad.

Another incentive to use the simulator before actually going out to the live range is that it gives soldiers the extended weapon familiarization time without wasting expensive live ammo.

Reyes, who has used the trainer twice now, recommends soldiers utilize the simulator before going to a range.

"Even if you don't master how to shoot a weapon accurately, it still gives you familiarization with the weapon, which is always good before you go to a live range," Reyes said.

Having only fired an M-16 and M-9 on a range, Reyes said the training allowed her to quickly gain experience with a variety of weapons.

"It was hard for me to shoot weapons that I haven't shot before, like the M-249 and the Mk-19," she said. "This is going to help me be at least somewhat familiar with the weapon and make my confidence in knowing what I'm doing higher when I go to the actual rage."

Spc. James Brinkley, of Rolla, agreed that the experience was a good chance for Soldiers to fire all of the different weapons.

"I think this type of training will help me on the range or in a combat situation," he said. "If you get thrown into the position of combat, you'll be more familiar with the weapons."

His favorite was the MK-19.

"I liked the brute power and force," Brinkley said.

This was Brinkley's first time using the trainer and said it is similar to a real range.

"The major differences are the weights of the weapons and the recoils. They are a lot harder on the real weapons," Brinkley said.

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