CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan -- Two Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members approached a table covered in gear, weapons and laptops, grinning from ear to ear. One of them began to speak to the contractor standing at the table. The other pulled out a cell phone and recorded the interaction. The contractor showed the service members how to use his system, which is essentially a tactical game of laser tag. The system tracks the marksmanship of each player through a laptop, which then records the results. A CD is given to the command to discuss their after-action report.
The “laser tag” simulator was part of Marine Corps Installations Pacific’s semi-annual Training Expo here, April 29. The event also included the Supporting Arms Visual Trainer, Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer, Combat Convoy Simulator.
Herbert Gray Sr., the director of the MCIPAC Tactical Training and Simulation Support Center, said this event allowed units to explore the tools available to them for training and improve their unit readiness.
Gray said training expos are held semi-annually because service members on Okinawa are always coming and going, especially Marines with unit deployment program battalions, which rotate every six months.
Gray said that the key part of Marines’ training is developing muscle memory. He thinks Marines should get to the point where they automatically react, based on repeated rehearsals of realistic combat scenarios. He uses the example of when Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberg landed the American Airways flight 1549 safely on the Hudson River.
In an interview with CBS, Sullenberg said, “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I've been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on (Jan. 15, 2009) the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal."
Gray said some of these simulators are multi-million-dollar systems, but added that the overall savings of manpower, fuel, live fire and ranges outweigh the price of the expensive gear.
“It’s better to drop bombs in a simulated environment than to drop bombs on a range all over the place,” said Gray. “It saves us a lot of money.”
Simulators may soon play an even greater role in training for Marines stationed in Okinawa. Gray said MCIPAC is trying to construct a two-story building on Camp Hansen containing all, or most, of the simulator systems. The two-story building would save space by consolidating all the different stations of simulator systems spread throughout Camp Hansen. The consolidation is part of a larger project that reduces the Marine Corps footprint on Okinawa, returning land to local citizens.