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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 12, 1997)
National Guard unveils virtual range
By Darren Ivy
For the Nebraska Army National Guard,
successfully hitting a target now means hitting
a red X on a computerized projection screen
rather than a hole in a paper bull’s eye.
This virtual shooting range, assembled in
the Adjutant Major General’s building at 1233
Military Rd., is replacing traditional live-fire
ranges as the new marksmanship training for
the Army National Guard.
Camouflage netting, computer screens, sur
round-sound stereo, C02-powered weapons,
and a 12 foot by 30 foot movie projection screen
make up the Nebraska Army National Guard’s
Engagement Skills TVainer, or EST.
“We tried to create a battlefield atmosphere,
so the troops will have the right mind-set for
training,” said Maj. Tom Brewer, state marks
manship coordinator for the Nebraska National
When civilians enter the Engagement Skills
TTainer room in the Adjutant General’s build
ing, they might think they have plopped a coin
into a computerized video game.
However, the $500,000 system is not de
signed for video game antics.
“It was designed to allow Nebraska Guards
men to work on their marksmanship skills in a
computerized virtual reality environment,”
Adjutant Maj. Gen. Stanley Heng said.
Heng said the EST evaluation will allow
National Guard marksmanship officials to
evaluate the troops’ shooting skills before they
go to an actual live-fire range. Heng said he
hopes the individual evaluation of soldiers’
shooting will improve their first-time scores on
the Guard’s annual qualification tests.
“The Guard doesn’t want to eliminate live
range shooting. We just want to make sure sol
diers are well prepared when they take their
qualification tests so they don’t have to retake
them,” Brewer said.
Shooting for success
In addition to providing individual soldier
evaluation, the EST will also make marksman
ship training cheaper and more efficient for the
Guard. Compared with live-fireranges, the EST
costs considerably less to operate. ~ i.
Brewer estimated the Guard spent $ 100,000
in a year for the live-fire range. The cost in
cludes ammunition, gun maintenance and
transporting troops to the range in Hastings for
three weekends every month.
Brewer estimated the total costs of operat
ing the EST at less than $5,000 for the year.
By reducing the use of live-fire ranges,
weapons will not wear out as fast and using
fewer bullet casings will benefit the environ
ment, Brewer said.
The EST was supposed to cost $750,000,
but because of the large number of systems or
dered through a joint contract with the Marine
Corps and Army National Guard, Fire Arms
Training Systems in Virginia gave the federal
government a $250,000 discount.
Aiming for improvement
With camouflage netting and tarps on the
wans, me-size images ana surrouna souna,
“The Range” looks like a real battlefield.
Ten to 20 different battlefield scenarios are
found on each of the $1,000 laser disks that
the National Guard owns. Brewer said the
Guard will have to constantly update the laser
disks to make sure that troops stay challenged
by new scenarios.
After picking a battlefield scenario, the com
puter operators in the back of the 50 foot by 50
. foot training room can specifically tailor the
scenario. They must decide the number of fir
ing stations, volume level, wind speed, wind
direction and whether the scenario is in the day
Unlike a live-fire shooting range, the weap
ons are operated by C02. This is one of the only
differences between the EST guns and live-fire
range guns. Trainees will still have to deal with
gun jamming, magazine reloading and gun re
“These factors force the shooter to act just
like they would in firing the real thing,” Brewer
After the options are chosen and the weap
ons are loaded, the action begins. The loaded
battlefield scenario cones onto the huge screen
and the shooters are given directions.
Shooters are told to focus on specific areas
of the screen and their goal is to shoot enemy
troops as they move toward them. After a cer
tain amount of tithe has passed or after the en
emy troops have all been killed, a message ap
pears on the screen telling shooters to cease
Once the battle scenarios end, the evalua
tions begin. A chart appears on the screen thaf
tells each shooter how many rounds were fired,
how many targets were hit, and the percentage
of targets hit. Then computer operators can re
play the battle scene in slow motion, normal
motion, or fast motion.
“In order to do well on the system, soldiers
must make split-second identifications, criti
cal ballistic corrections and perform other skills
that are considered critical in a real battle,”
If shooters missed the target during battle,
a green X with the gun’s number shows up ex
actly where the bullet landed. If a target is hit,
a red X appears and if a friendly soldier is shot,
a blue X appears.
“Instructors can then take this information
to nme reintorcement training oased upon the
individual’s performance,” Brewer said.
According to formal military evaluations,
the accuracy in marksmanship has skyrocketed
after EST training.
Improved accuracy is just one of the many
possible benefits of the EST. Because the EST
is located in Lincoln, soldiers waste less time
on the road.
“Because it doesn’t take as long to run a
group through this system as on a regular range,
we’ve got more time for individual training,
which will ultimately make our soldiers better
shots,” Brewer said.
Since the Guard received the system three
weeks ago, officers have been testing it and
making sure it operates properly. They haven’t
encountered any problems yet, so the Guard will
let the public test its marksmanshipon the EST.
Building 1233 will be open to the public this
week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from
10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
LT. COL. ROGER MEISMGER watches Dawias Kelly, a Lineals Seetbeast eeaier, fire a
pneanatlcally ceatrelleO M-16 rifle at the Nebraska Natlenal GiarCs new Eiaeeewet Skills
Drainer. The state-ef-tbe-art, $500,000 EST will be epee te the pnbllc this weakens.
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