Simulators help Army Reserve Soldiers gain weapons proficiency at Cold Steel III

By Maj. Thomas Piernicky | 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) | Feb. 11, 2019

FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. — U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers practiced mounted gunnery skills in virtual simulators, here, Feb. 8, 2019, as part of Operation Cold Steel III

The Warrior Skills Trainer is a virtual-reality simulator that provides an opportunity for vehicle crews to develop teamwork, communication and gunnery skills. During OCS III, vehicle crews must demonstrate proficiency in the WST before moving on to a gunnery range to fire live rounds. 

“It gives them more experience in the virtual world so they know what to expect on the live-fire range,” said Sgt. David Fraire, a Vehicle Crew Evaluator whom grades crews for qualification. 

While they are in the WST, vehicle crews get practice working together which is critical in combat situations. 

“It allows us the time to build our team cohesion and build our communication skills,” said Staff Sgt. Cody Goodwin, a vehicle commander with the 419th Transportation Company. “The 360 virtual reality helped us to be as close to realistic as possible.” 

That 360-degree view helps immerse Soldiers in the training by providing a more realistic scenario.

“I love it,” said Spc. Cody Densley. “I love to be able to still have that reality of getting a 360 view of everything.”

While this is Goodwin and Densley’s third OCS gunnery together and they are used to having moving, virtual screens, newer Soldiers may find this disorienting. Some Soldiers report nausea and motion sickness during the training. 

“Other than being nauseous, I really enjoyed the simulator,” said Pfc. Araceli Venegas, the driver and newest member to the team. 

Venegas recently graduated from Advanced Individual Training and joined her unit a couple months ago. Having a new crew member means the team must learn to work together in noisy and chaotic environments if they hope to qualify during live-fire.

“Me and Sgt. Goodwin are pretty quiet, so it helped us learn that we need to speak up,” said Venegas.

Densley said the training helped the team feel more comfortable being able to work with each other.

“Going through the simulator and having this training out here on Cold Steel actually feels like it is bringing us closer together,” said Densley.

As the gunner, Densley feel right at home with his M240B machine gun and says it is very similar to the real thing. He enjoys having the mounted weapon system, which allows him to see where the rounds are hitting.

“I have fired this weapon system before,” said Densley. “It is a bit easier on the simulator. As for accuracy, it is right there with the real thing.”

Densley appreciated practice in the simulator as it prepared him for moving on to qualify on the live-fire range. 

“As a gunner, it allows you to get that feeling that is muscle memory,” said Densley. “Keep building that muscle memory so that when you get out there on the live-fire or even down range, you already have that muscle memory built into you and know exactly what to do and feel comfortable.”

The team all enjoyed and recommended the virtual training as a positive experience.

“It is going to help you in so many different ways,” said Densley. “It will help you by getting to know the weapon system, getting to know other people, working with other people, with other units. So that when the time comes, if that time comes, you are not worried about not knowing what you are doing.

For more information on Operation Cold Steel III, please visit: https://www.usar.army.mil/ColdSteel/

Operation Cold Steel III is a training exercise where individual and vehicle crew-served weapons platform qualification take place across several military installations. U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers will train and qualify on M2, M19 and M240B weapon systems in ground and mounted military vehicle platforms to include Humvees, FMTVs, HEMTTs and HETs.