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Staff Sgt. Michael P. Connors, battalion gunner, 2nd Assault Amphibian battalion, sits inside the amphibious assault vehicle turret trainer during a mock training exercise Feb. 28. Connors, along with other Marines were attending a three day trainer course to become familiarized with the newly installed virtual simulator. The $2.2 million turret trainer project was first tested in Camp Lejeune and an approved model is now being installed on other Marine Corps Installations.

Photo by Cpl. Rose A. Muth

Turret simulator keeps Marines on top of training

3 Mar 2006 | Cpl. Rose A. Muth

Marines from 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion are moving ahead into the 21st century with new computer simulators to help refine combat skills and get more hands-on training.

The new turret trainer virtual simulator program was recently installed, but previous models were field tested by Marines from Alpha Company, 2nd AA Bn., 2nd Marine Division, prior to deploying to the Middle East in September 2005.

With three vehicles in a formation and only 150 meters of separation between them, the newly acquired technology helps simulate what Marines will be doing on a convoy or other mission.

“Last March we received a prototype and we had Marines use it and give their input on what they liked and didn’t like, and what we could make improvements on,” said Staff Sgt. Michael P. Connors, battalion gunner, Headquarters and Support Company, 2nd AA Bn.,. “The prototype program ended in July and Lockheed & Martin came up with the final design. The simulators were just installed and now we’re running a three-day trainer course.   Then the Marines will come in and start using it.”

Just arriving back from Iraq in October of 2005, Staff Sgt. Brian L. Sears, crew chief course instructor, Headquarters and Support Company, 2nd AA Bn., is going through the three-day trainer course and acknowledges the benefits of getting the necessary training before deploying.

“We might not always be able to get a range, so this is something we have in our backyard that we can use,” Sears said. “We’re not using the simulator to replace the range in any way. We just want the Marines to be prepared for combat and any other situations that might get thrown their way.”

Having the new indoor trainer will make field training more productive and factors such as weather and range availability won’t make an impact. According to Connors, Marines can practice a wide range of scenarios on the simulator and carry that knowledge over to field training exercises.

“Marines can practice different skills, formations and tactics with the simulators and see how their decision making skills worked or didn’t work for them,” Connors said. “The simulator can also calculate your accuracy on each weapon.”

This is just one way that this new technology is helping AA battalion amplify all of their skills, according to Connors.

“Having the three new turret simulators will help us integrate all the elements used out at a field exercise in one room and allow the crewman and the chief section leader a chance to refine their skills on all levels,” Connors said. “There are two different weapons on the Amphibious Assault Vehicles and switching between these weapons take skills. This also gives a junior Marine who hasn’t had a lot of experience with weapons a chance to get a feel for the turret and get familiarized with the systems before they go out for a field training exercise.”

Although the turret trainer is being used by Marines who work with AAVs at all times, a third crewman course is offered to help cross-train Marines and Sailors attached to the unit.

“We offer a course for Marines or Sailors to get familiarized with the turret and the weapons systems to be prepared for anything that might come their way just sitting in the back of the AAV during a deployment,” Connors said. “That person will be prepared and will know what to do if stuff ever goes down and they have to take charge.”

With the new turret trainer program being set up on other bases as well, the $2.2 million program is already a huge success with Marines throughout the Corps.

“I think this is a great program to use for training and I’m glad that we were the ones who got a chance to test it out and see what the programs were simulators are made of,” Connors said. “It’s just another great training tool to use to be prepared for when the time comes to actually use the skills we do have and we’ll know that we are ready to take the challenges head on.”