CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
On a hot and bright afternoon, U.S. Marines and NATO allies move quietly through an occupied town. This town is full of small shops with people walking in and out. As the Marines and their allies traverse slowly through the city center, the townspeople converse and laugh with each other, most of them paying no mind to the armed men in uniform. A shop owner dumps a pot of coffee out of her back window while watching a Marine slowly peek between two buildings. The smell of old coffee diffuses through the wind as gunfire suddenly erupts from the rifles of the Marines and their allies, aimed toward armed hostiles stepping out from behind closed doors and vehicles. Shouting comes from both sides, and the sounds of panicked screams from the townspeople and thudding footsteps of people running away are drowned out by the gunfire. Gunpowder fills the air while the Marines and friendly forces engage the armed combatants. But this scenario isn't real; it's just a simulated training exercise at Camp Lejeune’s new Outdoor Infantry Immersion Trainer, or O-IIT, which is now open for training operations.
This facility is the first O-IIT on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, and the only O-IIT on the East Coast. On May 18, 2023, MCB Camp Lejeune’s O-IIT conducted its first training exercise, a joint-training event conducted by U.S. Marines and NATO allies.
“I’d say it gives a unique experience, especially with MOUT training. Yes, we have the indoor facility as well, but this outdoor facility is a lot larger in scale. I think this may be the closest thing you can to simulate the actual fog of war.” U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Michael McLaughlin, a firepower patrol team leader with 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company
The first phase of the training scenario started with role-players working in shops, speaking to each other and laughing together until they heard a simulated explosion through the facility’s speakers. The role-players then went into a dramatized panic, with screams and cries erupting from inside the shops. On one side, a role-player with a mask and bandana started firing at the Marines and foreign allies who were trying to communicate with the populace amid all the chaos.
“The role-players they bring in are actually from other countries and they may not even speak English, so you actually have to have an interpreter with you,” said McLaughlin.
Role-players are commonly used in the Indoor Infantry Immersion Trainer, but not at the same scale as now achievable by the O-IIT.
While the O-IIT shares similarities with the Indoor Infantry Immersion Trainer, one of the things that sets the O-IIT apart is its size, which allows it to be used by platoon-sized elements in comparison to the indoor facility which can only hold squad-sized elements. This also allows for units to conduct multiple training scenarios at one time, which diversifies the training and pushes it closer to the chaotic nature of a real combat environment. The outdoor facility is also located next to the MOUT complex area on MCB Camp Lejeune, allowing it to be used as even larger MOUT operational scenarios by companies and battalions.
Tim Seamon, operations officer, Marine Corps Installations East-MCB Camp Lejeune Range and Training Area Management, explained that the O-IIT is a 13-acre site consisting of 80 buildings divided between three roads. This training area includes an embassy area, mid-town area and a lower income, ‘slum’ area.
Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary Zephir
U.S Marine Corps Capt. Quinton Boyed, field artillery officer, 2d Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, provides security while at the Outdoor Infantry Immersion Trainer on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, May 18, 2023. U.S. Marines worked alongside partners and allies from Norway, France, Finland, and Sweden. The OIIT provided Marines and international partners with scenario based realistic training, creating a fully immersive environment using role players, pyrotechnics, subject matter experts, and sound and smell generators.
The design of the O-IIT required the facility designers to construct structures that could withstand coastal environments and endure the rigors of Marine training while also maintaining the ability to be reconfigured and modified in the future. The designers used precast concrete, formed using a reusable mold, and cured in a controlled environment, to achieve this goal.
The Precast/Prestressed Institute, the technical institute and trade association for the precast, prestressed concrete structures industry, awarded Camp Lejeune’s new O-IIT with the 2023 Best Military Building award.
“We chose this project as the winner because we found it incredibly fascinating in the use of precast" said Vanessa Schutte, K-12 Central Region Section Leader, DLR Group. “The training that happens by the Marines can be customized time and time again and moved to different facilities.”
Units can customize the award-training compound to fulfill the needs of different training exercises. By utilizing pyrotechnics, sound systems and scent systems, units enhance the training’s immersiveness, providing their Marines with more realistic training.
The Outdoor Infantry Immersion Trainer provides Marines with a unique training experience and the opportunity to conduct various specialized large-scale scenarios. The facility’s immersive nature, customizability, and personnel support gives unit leaders more versatility on the exercises they can perform on MCB Camp Lejeune. It solidifies the base’s reputation as world-class training facility and increases MCB Camp Lejeune’s Marines’ readiness to face our nation’s adversaries.