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Station's 'dinosaur' ISMT replaced by latest counterpart

By Lance Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani | | July 27, 2005

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The station Marksmanship Training Unit will replace its Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer with two state-of-the-art upgrades they received at Building P-40 Friday.

The ISMT-E will replace the10-year-old ISMT, retiring one of the oldest marksmanship simulators in the Marine Corps, according to Cpl. Brandon S. Price, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron MTU marksmanship instructor.

"It's a dinosaur,” said Price, a Lewiston, Idaho, native. “There are only about four left."

The marksmanship trainer allows trainees to use simulated weapons on an animated range so they learn how to properly shoot and maintain an impact group, as the computer records their marksmanship techniques for the instructor to evaluate, said Staff Sgt. Derrick Billiard, MTU chief and Bellevue, Ohio, native. Using the ISMT-E is a practical alternative to the actual rifle range.

"If you have trouble with a Marine out in the range, you can actually bring the Marine back to the trainer and work with him (or her),” said Price. “The computer system actually lets you see how they apply their fundamentals. You can watch and see where they're aiming on the computer screen."

However, many problems were associated with the old simulator, explained Price. The problems would range anywhere from mechanical failures, high-maintenance, inaccuracy with the sight alignment equipment and poor graphics quality.

With the new system, training will be more efficient, said Price.

"The new machine won't break as much,” he added. “We will be able to train more on it because on the current one, I can get only two to three days out of it and then I have to fix it again."

Besides mechanical defects from wear and tear, the old ISMT used obsolete, early '90’s technology with laser disk imaging.

"The old one was built ten to twelve years ago,” said Steve Piccirilli, FATS marketing director for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. “The laser disks were all video scenarios. No matter what you did, you would not get the realistic outcome.”

But all that has changed, said Spencer Rice, marketing director, Fire Arms and Training Systems Incorporated, which is the company that builds the ISMT-E system. Even though each system costs nearly $50,000, they pay for themselves. Their advanced features will leave its archaic counterpart in the dust.

"Instead of wasting all of those live rounds, time, manpower and coordination, you will be able to come in here (to train)," said Price. "It's life-like."

Marksmanship is not the only focus of the ISMT-E, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Timothy Szymanski, station range safety officer. MTU also uses the trainers to familiarize deployable units on station with other weapons systems.

“If they have a jam (on a deployment), they can do remedial action to get the weapon back in action quickly,” Szymanski said.

The station also does not have ranges that can provide training for weapons other than pistols, rifles and shotguns. The ISMT-E is an effective alternative because station personnel can not only train with other weapons, but they can practice with scenarios, Szymanski added.

“We don’t have any ranges that support their training,” Szymanski added. “You can train them on advanced combat shooting skills to where you’re doing machine gun training. You can do squad maneuver training. You can actually have combat scenarios whether (it's from) offensive or defensive positions.”

Standard-based courses of fire are available for the following weapons: M-9 pistol, M-16 A2 rifle, M-249 squad automatic weapon, M-240G machine gun, AT-4 anti-tank weapon, M-2HB .50-caliber machine gun, M-870 shotgun, 60 mm mortars, 81 mm mortars, M203 grenade launcher, M-4 , MK-19 grenade launcher, MK-153 shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon, and the M-1014 joint service combat shotgun.

Close air support training will also be available on the system for station Marines to utilize, said Szymanski.

“You can go into fire-support training where people can actually practice calling for fire. They will need to know how to do close air support, and how to call in for mortars and artillery,” he said. “When you have a unit (in Iraq) doing a patrol and see the enemy or get ambushed, they can call for support.”

“You can train to the level that is probably not feasible for most facilities,” agreed Steve Piccirilli.

"The system has evolved so much and so far from the original marksmanship trainer,” he added. “Now, you get immediate feedback with the system. This one is a complete digital system using digital image generation. The graphics are all three-dimensional and the targets are interactive. You also have access to a target library.”

The ISMT-E systems will include new computers and high definition target screens, which will replace the bulky three-color projector and modified weapons. 

The newly installed systems will give MTU a giant leap in technology, which will help train Marines more effectively and bettering who they are first — a rifleman, said Price.

"The most important part would be for us to help the Marines out with their marksmanship, using quality tools that work more accurately, which will help us help them more effectively,” said Price. “The difference will be day and night."

The ISMT-E is slated to be operational in mid August.

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