MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California -- Technology over the years has impacted generations of individuals and has ultimately changed the way we live our daily lives. Although Marines pride themselves on being able to do more with less, they aren’t opposed to utilizing technology to save time and money.
Marines with 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, conducted convoy training utilizing the Combat Convoy Simulator in order to hone and familiarize Marines with convoy operations at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 2, 2016.
The CCS at first glance looks like an expensive, high-tech video game, but its primary use is to prepare Marines for real-world combat missions with virtual projections of the battlefield. The projections can mimic environments of any region, providing Marines realistic training without actually going to the field.
“We don’t get a lot of opportunities to work in convoys due to vehicles being in such high demand,” said 1st Lt. Austin Head, a platoon commander with Battery S, 5/11. “This simulator allows us to do fairly realistic training, and it allows Marines to know what it feels like to take contact and be in an actual convoy without actually being out there.”
Head’s battalion, 5/11, is the only active duty High Mobility Artillery Rocket System battalion in the Marine Corps, and its gear is in high demand across the globe, so the combat convoy simulator helps get Marines simulated time on the road with these wheeled vehicles.
Within the training, Marines operate tactical vehicles and carry electronic weapons, which actively engage simulated targets on the screens. Marines can see where their rounds hit as if they were actually shooting a weapon. The battalion leadership focused on training Marines to spot potential dangers, while maneuvering through wide-open enemy territory.
“Today we wanted to go through a seemingly basic scenario, where the main priority is to spot any type of threat and either avoid or neutralize the threat,” Head said. “We have a good mix of guys who have done this before and then we have newer guys so this is a good opportunity to get in a lot of repetitions with this trainer.”
A distinct component the CCS provides is the element of surprise. During the training, Marines must stay alert to what’s going on because the operator of the program can throw in different situations, like putting an improvised explosive device on the road or programming active combatants mixed among harmless locals.
“There are various different scenarios we can put in,” said Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Hibshman, a range maintenance man and facilitator with Company Q, 5/11, 1st Mar. Div. “We can add helicopters, insurgents, IEDs, civilians and anything else that you could come across while in combat.”
The capabilities of the CCS make the training realistic and also very challenging.
“The number one thing I see with this training, especially when you’re using it for the first time, is people don’t expect things to happen so fast,” Hibshman said. “We try to simulate how things would happen in different countries as much as possible and it can catch you off guard.”
After each group went through a scenario, they were briefed on aspects of the training that went well, and where improvements could be made. Arguably, one of the most advantageous aspects about the CCS is the after action capability. All actions within the trainer are recorded on camera and on a computer system.
Marines can use the recordings to provide feedback and aid in correcting any observed mistakes.
Although the system is innovative as it is convenient, the system is not meant to eliminate actual convoy training completely. The basic skills Marines need to operate in the field still require active training.
“Yes, this training is effective for a lot of reasons, but it can’t replace actually being out there,” Head said. “The depth perception isn’t there when you’re looking at a screen and it can be hard to identify if somebody has a weapon or not. The main thing here is training Marines on reacting correctly to certain situations.”
Overall, 5/11 honed in on vital combat convoy skills. Virtual and simulated training saves the Marine Corps money while providing the high level of realism vital to keeping Marines ready.