News: Chief of staff for a day: Anchorage East High Principal gets tour of USARAK
Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Some people wonder what it might be like to swap places with someone for a day and see things as another person. For Anchorage East High School Principal Michael Graham, that chance came this week when he became USARAK Chief of Staff.
For most of the business day, Graham was able to experience the daily routine of U.S. Army Alaska Chief of Staff Col. Gary Agron.
Starting before sunrise Agron shared his daily physical training session at Buckner Fitness Center.
After a workout and a game of water polo in the gym’s pool they ate breakfast at the Wilderness Inn Dining Facility before moving on to the USARAK headquarters building.
Graham learned about the basics of the USARAK mission and the military’s role in Alaska with a detailed video and one-on-one sit-down briefing with Agron.
“We have a unique mission here in Alaska,” Agron said. “A lot of people don’t know this, but in the event of another big earthquake one of our primary roles would be to assist with any sort of recovery effort should the worst happen. And that’s in addition to being the home station for the only airborne unit in this area of command.”
After the mission briefing, they moved to USARAK’s Battle Command Training Center where various training scenarios are replicated.
Among the systems on display were the vehicle roll-over and weapon system simulators.
The two vehicle roll-over simulators realistically replicate the flipping of a vehicle in an accident. Two of the more common vehicles were used in their design, Humvee and the mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle.
Each simulator is built with actual components of the simulated vehicle, according to instructor/operator Allison Carbaugh, the end result is a vehicle body that can be rotated 360 degrees to the left and right in a controlled roll over.
Graham tried his hand in a weapons simulation range set up to fire an M9 semi-automatic pistol and an M4 carbine rifle. Real weapons attached to an air compressor simulate the recoil of live rounds being fired while infrared lasers fitted into the weapons allow the system to digitally track and record the “impact”.
A pre-recorded scene projected onto a screen is the target. The digital date can be immediately recorded and retrieved for quick assessment, the system is used primarily to train on judgment and use of force and applying the rules of engagement, according to Carbaugh.
Next was a vehicle convoy simulator, an actual Humvee chassis in a white room with a virtual 360 degree landscape projected onto its walls. Soldiers react to the changing landscape and enemy situation as they “drive” through the area.
This system allows for a full vehicle convoy training scenario without the use of live rounds or fuel. All of the motions, sounds, and feelings are simulated by speakers, air compressors and imaged projected around the stationary vehicle. Vehicle movement is simulated by remote controlled hydraulics from an operator observing the room.
The last big event of the day was a special airborne experience. Agron brought Graham to the airborne sustainment training area and showed him how to conduct a training jump from the 34-foot tower, a device used in the initial training and sustainment training of a paratrooper.
Jumpmasters from USARAK rigged Graham into a special harness designed for use with the tower and helped him to conduct a safe jump.
According to trainers at the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga., 34 feet is the height at which a person’s sense of self preservation begins to make it difficult to jump.
Following the jump from the tower Graham and Agron returned to USARAK Headquarters and Graham was presented with a certificate.
“I had a great time, this was really educational and fun,” Graham said.