The recoil feels real, the weapons are the same weight and there is even a mannequin with human-feeling skin that can talk and bleed as Soldiers try to help.
The thousands of props and simulators offered by the Col. Robert E. Jones Training Support Center seem eye-popping to some, routine to others and for many, a part of their regular routine at Fort Campbell.
By using the training center’s props and simulators Soldiers become proficient in warrior tasks.
On Oct. 25, dozens of Soldiers and leaders from three 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) units gathered at the Jones Training Support Center to receive the Keystone Award for their dedication to using its services and supplies more than any other units on Fort Campbell.
Colonel David C. Foley, deputy commander-operations, 101st Abn. Div., handed out the plaques in a warehouse full off props made to look like all sorts of weapons, body parts and uniforms that look like those worn by enemies.
“We look at where we are in time and space,” when training for combat, Foley said. “It’s about being able to visualize the fight for tomorrow and [being] ready.”
He told those who gathered that the three winning units have set the bar for the division.
“Be proud of what you are investing,” Foley said.
Even the small gifts given out to the Soldiers, including the playing cards with photos of either Russian or Chinese vehicles and weapons, were about readiness.
Steven Zuercher, Jones Center training support officer, said readiness and training are the keys to carrying out the Army’s missions and the three units who used the facility the most have the benefit of realistic training that can help them in the field or at war.
“They have been enthusiastic, they’ve been innovative, they’ve been creative in how they use training aids,” Zuercher said during the awards ceremony to recognize the units. “There is no doubt in my mind that the readiness of these units is of a higher level compared to like units that have done the same kind of training but not used these resources. I’m convinced that’s the truth.”
The Keystones Award was presented to the 1st and 3rd battalions of the 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Abn. Div. Artillery; and C Co., 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
The awards were based on the numbers of time equipment was reserved, the number of operators trained, number of simulation training events, number of simulation hours and the number of Soldiers trained in simulation events.
The Keystone Award was implemented for the Jones Training Support Center’s Customer Appreciation Day in 2018 to support the Installation Management Command Service Culture Campaign and Operation Excellence, Zuercher said.
“The Keystone Award is relevant because training resources are keystones to quality training, and training is a keystone to our Army’s readiness to engage and defeat our enemies,” he said. “With this award we are recognizing and rewarding the behavior we want to see in objectively assessing training readiness.”
The equipment and simulators give Soldiers hands-on training that can be invaluable, said Capt. Christopher Dinkelacker, commander of C Co., 1-26th Inf. Regt.
Using an indoor range that can simulate a target or an enemy, Soldiers can shoot without the expense of real bullets. Soldiers also can plan their missions and get ready for other training from the individual level all the way up through squad and platoon-level.
“It’s a good way to train for upcoming training on Fort Campbell,” Dinkelacker said, adding he is honored to receive the award though the unit had not set out with winning it in mind.
“Our goal wasn’t to win this award but to get the most resources available at Fort Campbell,” he said.
The Jones Training Support Center provides support to units by providing training aids, devices, simulators and simulation systems.
“These products represent actual equipment, create simulated conditions, or simulate hazards, threats and conditions experienced in combat,” Zuercher said. “Units can increase the vigor, intensity and level of difficulty of tasks by using these devices in their training scenarios. Through training repetition, which is literally unlimited when using these devices, units can increase proficiency in individuals and small units and achieve an increase in readiness for combat.”
The new “dummy,” a TC3X medical trainer patient simulator is “actually smarter than we are,” he said.
With other mannequins, Soldiers could patch a wound and be told their job is done. This “patient” will keep bleeding until the source of the bleeding is stopped. Someone can even use a radio from a short distance away and talk through his real-looking mouth.
In addition, Soldiers can work on using maps and virtual reality for fire and mortar training.
Although they still use fire ranges on Fort Campbell, the virtual training spares the expense of ammunition other supplies, and allows for unique scenarios to be thrown into the training, said Duane Nickerson, TADSS instructor for the training support center.
“[TADSS] is a very big video game,” Nickerson said. “That’s exactly what it is. Soldiers have a lot of fun at them too.”
He said the simulations help keep Soldiers sharp so they don’t forget some little parts of their training.
“This keeps them fresh for combat,” Nickerson said. “It becomes second nature.”