MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The day starts out early like all the others. The Marines, who are equipped with everything they need to conduct a routine patrol, load into the humvee. Today is a sunny day as they move through the streets of Fallujah, only to be stopped by an improvised explosive device just miles down the road. Using the training they have received, the Marines call in the explosive ordnance disposal team. As they stand by for EOD, they receive gunfire from a nearby house. Before they can do anything, one of their men is struck down. It is now in their hands to get him med-evaced, and quick.
This is only one of several scenarios different units receive during convoy simulator training at Camp Wilson. The purpose of the training is to prepare Marines who are going overseas with the proper training to handle the numerous situations they will experience during different missions.
“This is a fully immersible convoy simulator,” said Staff Sgt. Hector Viramontes, tactics instructor. “So it teaches Marines tactics, techniques, procedures and combat convoy operations. Units can come in here and evaluate their Marines on the different things they can experience overseas.”
There are currently four different simulators at Camp Wilson in use for convoy training. Each trailer contains the exact same setup as the others. The simulators contain a 360 screen which displays actual terrain from Baghdad and Fallujah. They also contain a replica of a humvee equipped with M16-A2 service rifles and a movable turret manned with a .50-caliber machine gun.
“The training can take a minimum of four hours to complete, but units can stay here for several days,” said Staff Sgt. Frank Villaverde. “Each scenario takes about 30 minutes to an hour to complete and we train anywhere from 300 to 350 Marines a week.”
The simulators also offer the unit commanders a chance to test their Marines on what they think the unit needs to work on most. It also allows them to increase and decrease the stress level with the different things the Marines can experience.
“What happens is there are basic things in each scenario and we have the capability to add things as the Marines go through each scenario. So, if they react to something a certain way, we can alter a scenario based on their reactions to certain things,” said Viramontes.
Unlike a video game, the convoy simulator is not a joke and is not to be taken as one. It presents Marines with real life situations and can save lives in country if taken seriously.
“In these scenarios, they can see civilians, enemies with weapons, children, women, dead animals on the road, they can call for helicopter support they can call for fixed wing support, and call for EOD” said Viramontes. “It tests their decision making skills and helps them practice their immediate action drills.”
When units are finished with training, they conduct an after-action report on what went well throughout the training. Along with the AAR, the simulator allows the scenarios to be played back so they can discuss what they did wrong during the simulation training.
“We generally have an extremely good response back from the Marines,” said Viramontes. “What usually takes months to plan in live training, we can do in five minutes here.”