Skip to comments.Marine training gets high-tech help: Pendleton center helps troops with tough decisions
Posted on 01/16/2008 2:38:50 PM PST by RedRover
CAMP PENDLETON -- On a complex battlefield where the enemy blends in with the civilian population, Marines are often forced to make split-second decisions.
Is the bulge beneath the Iraqi man's clothing hiding a bomb? Is the apparent cell phone being carried by another actually a remote-control device ready to set off a roadside bomb?
Inside a former tomato plant two miles down a dirt road near this base's Camp San Mateo, a $2.5 million "Infantry Immersion Trainer" is helping Marines prepare for that kind of scenario, the kind troops face routinely on the dusty streets of Iraq.
Using simulators and actors portraying insurgents and Iraqi civilians, the high-tech training center offers troops a virtual combat environment experience.
"We are in the throes of an irregular war and we owe it to our Marines to prepare them to make the right legal, moral and ethical decisions," said Col. Clarke Lethin, chief of staff of Camp Pendleton's I Marine Expeditionary Force.
"What they face in Iraq is one of the toughest things to replicate in training," he said.
Lethin and Marine Corps officials walked about 75 defense industry representatives through the simulated village Tuesday and told the group that they were ready to buy their best ideas to enhance the training experience.
The industry reps also were in town for a two-day weapons and equipment exhibition that starts at the base this morning.
Tuesday's focus, however, was all about training Marines in how to tell friend from foe, when to shoot and when to hold back.
One of the Marines showing how the troops react in the various scenarios was Lance Cpl. Jason Trehan, a 24-year-old Ohio native who returned from his fourth Iraq assignment in November.
"It's pretty realistic and a lot like what we do face," Trehan said. "It could be bigger, though. Bigger is always better," he said, in reference to the somewhat cramped series of rooms and low ceilings.
Trehan said a higher ceiling that would accommodate rooftops would more accurately depict a typical Iraqi village.
One of the defense industry contractors, former Marine and Iraq veteran Eddie Wright, 32, of Seattle, said the facility reminded him of the streets of Fallujah -- streets where he lost both his hands to a rocket-propelled grenade attack in April 2004.
"This gives us an urban environment much like the fight we are in now," said Wright, who was awarded the Bronze Star with a combat decoration for valor.
He now works as the military training coordinator at Strategic Operations, a 20-acre virtual training facility for the military and law enforcement in San Diego.
A lance corporal assigned to Camp Pendleton's 1st Reconnaissance Battalion when he was injured, Wright was eventually promoted to sergeant before being medically retired from the service.
He said the simulated village, its actors and projection screens get "Marines thinking the way they're supposed to."
Opened in December, the center joins simulated villages at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and the Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms as places that train local troops before they head off to Iraq.
Some 11,000 Marines and sailors from the I Marine Expeditionary Force are scheduled to serve in Iraq's Anbar province in the next 12 months.
Col. Lethin said the Camp Pendleton virtual trainer was in part the brainchild of Gen. James Mattis, who until recently was head of the I Marine Expeditionary Force and commander of Marine Corps Forces Central Command.
Mattis is now working with NATO and as head of the Joint Forces Command based at Norfolk, Va.
"General Mattis said that if we can train a pilot to fly a 747 in a simulator, we owe that same kind of training to our ground forces that are bearing the brunt of the casualties today," Lethin said.
The local troops now deploying are finding a much more stable and calm environment in the former insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad along the Syrian and Jordanian border, Lethin said. But it remains a dangerous place.
"It's a lot better today than it was, but there's still bad guys to be killed," Lethin said. "The training we now can offer here is good, but I want it to get even better."
The enhancements he would like to see, Lethin said, include scenarios for conducting vehicle checkpoints and various exercises involving what the military calls "escalation of force" and when that is appropriate.
At this week's weapons and equipment exhibit, Lethin said he wouldn't necessarily be trying to buy anything off the shelf.
"Part of my job is to see what's out there and cherry-pick," he said. "To tell the industry folks that I like this but this is how I want to see it improved before I would be ready to say we should buy it."
Marines have a simulated insurgent on the ground as they search for others in a simulated Iraqi home on Camp Pendleton Tuesday.
A Marine bursts into a room of a simulated Iraqi house and quickly makes a determination if the images of house residents projected on the wall are a threat.
Great idea; they should put some paint-ball weapons in the hands of the "insurgents' and run JAG through after they've been run ragged and awake for 40 Hours. See how many splat out!
So it’s “pretending”....ain’t nothing like the real thing baby IMHO because you know the hologram can’t kill you!
The only difficult decision the Marines need any help on is...
when, exactly, is the right and proper time to start turning their weapons onto the enemy in their backfield?
It is great to see new programs being developed to further train our Marines in the type rules they will have to carry out.
Very interesting statement from Thomas Buscemi, Dir. of MEF Battle Simulation Center - decision has to be made - “should they hand out candy or should they get ready to shoot”?
Well maybe they can do both....a weapon that shoots out pez bullets???? Then we can call it a day and wait to be sued for the cavities produced by all of our sweetness.
See update post#9
LAWYER CONVICTED OF VANDALIZING MARINES’ CAR