JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., have found an innovative way to stay trained and ready for when the nation calls.
By utilizing the expertise of computer, military, and technology professionals, JBLM has instituted a way for soldiers to imitate the battlefield, at a fraction of the cost of live training.
“We train as we fight. This replicates battlefield conditions, so that’s what we’re doing; this is what we’re [going to] do if we ever go to war,” said Pfc. Kyle Blignaut, a Lafayette, Ind., native and assistant mortar gunner with Company B, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division.
Blignaut and a company of infantrymen utilized the capabilities of the Engagement Skills Trainer at the War Fighting Center near Gray Army Airfield, Dec. 12, to replicate the terrain and conditions they will train in early next year at the Yakima Training Center.
The Yakima Training Center is the premier training facility in Washington State, which enables soldiers assigned to JBLM to remain ready and trained by providing a site where they can physically replicate the demands of war.
“We’re doing a virtual repetition of the platoon live fire exercise to prepare [soldiers] for the actual live training that will take place [shortly after the new year],” said Capt. Glenn Burkey, a Chardon, Ohio, native and commander of B Company, 1-17 Infantry.
Aside from the safety benefits associated with rehearsing and visualizing an operation prior to execution, virtual training simulates resources that aren’t always readily available.
“We’re able to incorporate a lot of the assets we’re not normally able to get on a routine basis. By coming in here, we can [replicate] the actual terrain they’re going to be training on without actually having to go to Yakima. We’re [also] able to incorporate the use of mortars, close air support, [and] close combat aviation to supplement that mission,” said Burkey.
To incorporate mortars and air support into training requires resources, such as land, fuel, and time, but with the use of the EST, soldiers can replicate these assets at a fraction of the price.
According to Burkey, his company took the exercise one step further by having a mortar carrier vehicle and crew at the training site to, “Process fire missions as if they were out at the [Yakima Training Center] supporting the platoons as they execute the live fire lane.”
“I absolutely believe this is the way we should train soldiers. It’s not going to replace live training, but I’m a believer in the benefits of doing a virtual iteration prior to doing dry, blank, then live iterations of training,” added Burkey.