State-of-the-art visual models will enhance warfighter capabilities

Melody Everly Staff Writer

Defending our nation and assuring our allies in today’s complex environment requires warfighters to be tactically proficient, decisive and adaptable. In a day and age where the enemy is increasingly sophisticated and well-armed, it is vital that our Soldiers are ready – at a moment’s notice – to leverage the full spectrum of skills they have learned to defeat any threat they may encounter.

That begins with rigorous, highly realistic training, and that is exactly what the Employees at Fort Drum’s Training Support Center endeavor to provide to each Soldier on the installation, said Jeff Guler, Training Support Branch chief.

"When a Soldier steps foot on the battlefield, that is not the time to learn something – that’s the time to exercise what you have learned and trained for," Guler said. "We are here to provide them with the most comprehensive, high-quality training possible, so that they are ready to defeat the enemy."

To do that, TSC Employees must create an environment that mirrors that of a complex battlefield. By encountering the chaos of war in a training setting, Guler said that Soldiers learn to remain focused as they react to challenges, while also growing accustomed to the sights, smells and sounds of battle.

The recent addition of two new Visual Models (VISMODs) will further increase the rigor and realism of training for Soldiers at Fort Drum.

A special effects company from Los Angeles repurposed two 998 Humvees, modifying them so that their size, shape and dimensions match those of a T-72 Main Battle Tank. Complete with a gunnery turret that can rotate 360 degrees, a main gun and a machine gun that fire blank cartridges, and inflatable "tracks," the drivable VISMODs are designed to look, sound and maneuver like a real tank.

The tank VISMODs – the first of their kind Armywide – provide an opportunity for Soldiers to learn how to defeat an austere threat that they previously did not have a means to train against, said Gary Tanner, supervisory training instructor for TSC.

"Soldiers need to be able to use every weapon they have available to them," Tanner said. "The 10th Mountain Division has anti-tank weapons, but up until now we have not had a way for our Soldiers to train to fight enemy tanks."

Now, Soldiers will have an opportunity to gain valuable practice with weapons systems like the M136 AT-4 – the Army’s primary light anti-tank weapon system. The shoulder-launched system is designed to allow a single operator to penetrate hardened targets and armor threats.

In the past, Soldiers at Fort Drum practiced with the weapon system on the range, but they did not have the ability to put it to use in a training scenario. Not only will the T-72 VISMOD allow Soldiers to hone their anti-tank weaponry skills, they also will have to react to returned fire from the tank.

"The T-72 is MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) equipped," Guler said. "The tank will have receivers on it, just like the ones that the Soldiers wear on their helmets and uniforms."

Using lasers and blank cartridges, ground forces will be able to engage in a simulated battle with the T-72 VISMOD.

"They are going to be able to practice using their weapons systems to defeat it, and at the same time, it’s going to fire simulation rounds back at them," he said. "It’s as realistic as you can get without using live ammunition."

Trevor Niles, a Training Aids, Devices, Simulators and Simulations instructor with TSC, said that the VISMOD will help to bridge the gap between the classroom instruction Soldiers receive, and the actual maneuvers that it takes to defeat a threat like a tank.

"When Soldiers use the EST (Engagement Skills Trainer), they are practicing to defeat a tank in a simulation," he said. "Now they will be able to get out into the field and use what they have learned."

Guler said that fighting against a simulated opposing force with the T-72 VISMOD will teach Soldiers to be adaptive and to respond quickly.

"When you have this type of armor threat to defeat, it is going to alter the way that you fight and the way you use the weapons systems available to you," Guler said. "After training with these VISMODs, Soldiers will be able to visually identify the tank, understand how it maneuvers and what its capabilities are, and have the confidence to act decisively to defeat a weapon like this on the battlefield."

Realistic VISMODs enhance the quality and realism of home-station training, but most installations – outside of combat training centers – don’t have these valuable assets. Guler said that TSC is fortunate to have several high-tech models and this is just one of the factors that makes Fort Drum a premier training area for units from across the country.

"They present training units and Soldiers with a realistic and viable threat that more closely replicates the decisive action operational environment, and challenges leadership and Soldiers with a more complex and demanding threat to train against at home station," Guler said. "We know that comprehensive training is vital to readiness, and we are proud to provide that to everyone who trains at Fort Drum."


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