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Army Reservists Support Conference, Gain Experience

By Capt. Steven Alvarez, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2007 – As the Humvee tumbled side over side, the soldiers inside shouted: “Rollover!”

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Soldiers from the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) respond as fire erupts from a rooftop in a weapons training simulator. Photo by Capt. Steven Alvarez, USA
  

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They braced themselves as sand and debris once on the floorboards now fell on them, sprinkling them with dust. After quickly assessing the situation, the soldiers quickly managed to get themselves out of the upside-down vehicle and pulled a wounded comrade out with them.

The unique thing about this rollover is that it didn’t happen in Iraq or Afghanistan but inside the Orlando Convention Center, where members of the armed forces, government, defense industry and academia have gathered for the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference. The Nov. 26-29 conference promotes cooperation between organizations to improve training and education programs and identify common training issues in the development of multiservice programs.

Soldiers from 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), an Army Reserve command, partnered with the Army’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation to support the conference since both organizations have their headquarters in Orlando.

PEO STRI provides interoperable training and testing solutions and program management as well as life-cycle support for the Army’s advanced training systems. The 143rd ESC commands and controls units, provides logistical planning and support operations and provides combat service support forces capable of supporting full-spectrum logistics.

The partnership enabled soldiers to receive training and provided the defense industry with real soldiers to demonstrate and test emerging technologies.

“We want to take advantage of doing some training as well as supporting,” Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Segreaves, of the 143rd, said. “Repetition in demonstrating this stuff has its benefits. Being upside down and extracting yourself from a vehicle -- there are hardly any opportunities to get this type of training; (the conference) provides this opportunity,” he said. “Rollover training is a hot item. We know soldiers are getting killed this way,” Segreaves said.

The 16 soldiers supporting the conference are from the 143rd and from Florida. All are part-time warrior citizens from the 196th Transportation Company, the 1159th, 194th and the 76th Terminal Supervision Teams. Many of the soldiers supporting the conference have served as transporters in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

“This is really good training,” Sgt. Laura Jordan said. Ordinarily she drives a palletized loading system truck with the 196th, but she insisted the Humvee training is still beneficial. “It gives you the idea of what it is really like.”

About 100 feet from the rollover simulator, three soldiers were patrolling an Iraqi street. The scenario was simulated on a large color screen as the soldiers moved throughout the warren of streets carrying M-4 rifles at the ready.

Suddenly gunfire erupted, and the team leader shouted, “Sniper!” The soldiers assumed firing positions and opened fire, aiming and shooting their rifles at the screen. As the rifles cracked, rounds bounced off the building where the sniper was perched atop a roof.

“Reloading!” another soldier shouted as he knelt to reload his weapon. The other two kept a steady flow of rounds on the target to protect the soldier as he reloaded. Before he was done, the insurgent was killed.

On an adjacent roof in the simulation, a civilian peeked out at the firefight; one of the soldiers watched him carefully, but did nothing more. Below on the busy streets, villagers scrambled about on the street.

The simulator is an extension of the Army’s marksmanship training program, but it introduces the added elements of non-combatants, an urban environment and other soldiers involved in the mission.

“This does help with unit cohesion,” Staff Sgt. Scott Zeman, of the 76th TST, said after he and two other soldiers encountered a sniper ambush in the simulator. He also noted that the rifle’s recoil was realistic, and his teammates added that not only did the scenario simulator training help prepare them for duty on the frontlines, but it also taught them to communicate with each other during hostile actions.

On the other side of the show hall, Spc. Richard Abreu stood near a driving simulator, waiting at another shot to drive the Stryker simulator. The simulator consists of a vehicle cab, instructor operator system, a visual system, freedom motion system all linked by computer systems.

The instructor selected visual and mechanical scenarios and monitored and scored each driver trainee. The instructor can introduce malfunctions and emergencies in both tactical and nontactical environments. “It feels real -- the movement, especially when off-roading; the bouncing seems so real,” Abreu said.

Abreu served as a scout in Operation Iraqi Freedom with 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and said he believes simulators would help those entering vehicular professions. “It would be real good for people just coming into the military,” Abreu said. “Giving them something like this to train in would be real good so they’re more comfortable,” he added.

Army Master Sgt. Daniel Lopez agreed that simulator training for new soldiers would be beneficial. He said he has been involved in rollover accidents and knows the value of simulators firsthand. With simulators, vehicles do not get damaged and, above all, soldiers do not get injured. “It’s high-speed,” Lopez said.

“I’m going to have these guys coming through it (the simulator) all night,” he added about his soldiers.

Lopez said the simulators can indoctrinate soldiers into various conditions without traveling to actual locations. Desert, mountain and snowy environments can all be trained from one location when the simulator is programmed accordingly.

For his first try behind the wheel of the Stryker simulator, Lopez asked his instructor to introduce 100 mph winds into his scenario, as well as snow and hills. “I was trying to drive up a hill and didn’t give it enough power, and I started to slide back down the hill,” Lopez said smiling. “I also overcorrected with the wind.”

(Army Capt. Steven Alvarez is the public affairs officer for 143rd Sustainment Command [Expeditionary], in Orlando, Fla.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageStaff Sgt. Scott Zeman of the 76th Terminal Supervision Team responds to a sniper's ambush at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 26, 2007. The ambush was part of a simulator training scenario. Photo by Capt. Steven Alvarez, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageStaff Sgt. Scott Zeman stands ready as he and two other soldiers from the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) participate in a simulated patrol on an Iraqi street. Photo by Capt. Steven Alvarez, USA  
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