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Afghan conflict prompts change to combat simulator

The most advanced combat simulator within the Department of Defense (DOD) no longer resembles the streets of Iraq.

Camp Pendleton’s 32,000-square-foot Infantry Immersion Trainer was recently redesigned to resemble the Afghan village of Now Zad.

Headquarters Marine Corps officials made the decision March 15, to change the training environment to better suit the Corps’ focus on Operation Enduring Freedom.

“The ITT is designed to inoculate deploying Marines with the sights, sounds, and smells of a gun battle, so that their first real fire fight is no worse than his last simulation,” said Retired Marine Maj. Tom Buscemi Jr., director, Battle Simulation Systems Center, I Marine Expeditionary Force. “This is the only facility of its kind within the DOD.”

The $2.4 million training complex uses live role-players, Hollywood-like sets and special effects, including holograms and pyrotechnics, to prepare Marines for combat. The training facility, opened in November 2007, is based on more than 10 years of naval research and can be modified to reflect almost any area of operation.

“The Marine Corps is concentrating on Afghanistan, so we wanted to present scenarios that best resemble the AO Marines are currently going to,” said Buscemi.

The facility not only offers state-of-the-art technology, it also helps unit leaders to create realistic battle scenarios.

Fire teams or squads move throughout the pseudo urban-battlefield on missions to maintain security and assess medical needs and are assigned a translator, who interacts with Afghan nationals to simulate the language barrier often encountered in combat.

During one scenario, a rocket-propelled pyrotechnic exploded just feet behind a squad of Marines. Moments later, insurgent role-players began to fire on the team. One Marine fell, while the others attempt to assess his condition and evacuate him to medical care.

“The idea is for them to make critical decisions in the most chaotic situations possible,” said Buscemi.

Service members conducting training inside the IIT use real weapons, but fire Special Effects Small Arms Marking System rounds that are similar to paint ball rounds.

More than 620 troops have completed simulated scenarios inside the former tomato packaging plant since the cultural transition.

“This is truly a great training facility and opportunity,” said Royal Marine Lt. Col. Matthew R. Jones, G-3 plans officer, Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command Twentynine Palms, Calif., who has deployed three times with British Forces to Afghanistan.

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