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Yuma improves combat realism in urban convoy course

By Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison | | March 11, 2010

In January, the range management department upgraded the Barry M. Goldwater Range’s Convoy Security Operations Course offering Marines a more realistic combat setting.

With the addition of 15 shock-absorbing concrete structures, computer-controlled targets, and other effects simulating the fog of war, the course’s urban setting, dubbed Murrayville, now lets Marines perform more immersive predeployment training.

The Corps quickly learned in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom that aviation support Marines deployed around the world did not have the necessary experience to serve in the capacity required to ensure safe transportation of squadron assets, said William Sellars, range operations director for the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz.

The course, used year-round by home and visiting units, trains squadrons’ support elements for combat situations, such as encountering improvised explosive devices and engaging in small-arms fire. Murrayville, completed in 2004 as the third stage of the convoy course, has been continuously updated to match the training needs of combat operations.

Thirteen range maintenance Marines control the new simulators via computers from up to six kilometers away. With a simple command, the Marines strive to surprise the trainees, who must always be on their toes.

“The battlefield effects simulators ... really provide users with a completely realistic theater environment for convoy training,” said John Gordon, range plans officer.

The range, located east of MCAS Yuma, offers Marines more than 100 targets to fire upon, some being double-sided friend-or-foe targets holding a weapon or something harmless, like a basket of fruit.

Other elements include chaotic noises like gunfire, helicopters and amplified voices of combatants. Smoke flares and fake muzzle flashes are also part of the psychological bombardment Marines are expected to work through.

The added 15 shock-absorbing structures along with Murrayville’s original 17 provide Marines a setting where they can be caught in a crossfire, dismount from the convoy and act accordingly.

“When Marines dismount, it must be very structured so they can reorient their fire to the proper direction,” said Sellars.

The tactics being taught are in accordance with current operations in Afghanistan, said Gordon.

As warfighting tactics evolve, Marines can rest assured that so will their training.

“It’s a comprehensive approach to simulating battlefield effects that ensure realism and as much authenticity as safely possible in a training environment,” said Sellars.

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