Story and photo by Bruce Hinson
Fort Carson has a unique battle training asset that saves time, bullets, fuel and a whole lot more. The Battle Command Training Branch is where unit leaders can take their people to train in almost any imaginable scenario.
“When (leaders’) units are getting ready to deploy, whether to the (Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La.), the (National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.), a relief effort or a natural disaster, they’ll come here and simulate that area of operations,” said Marvin Weeks, manager of the BCTB’s Smith Simulation Center. “That way they’ll have some sense of situational awareness, have rehearsed in their minds, been able to do the right thing or fixed the wrong thing before they leave. Situational awareness, in this time, gives you some kind of muscle memory to fall back on, who you need to contact, what you need to do.”
The professionals at the BCTB take all the ingredients the leader wants to integrate: satellite imagery of the terrain, weapons choices, units, indigenous peoples, vehicles and situations. Then they mix it all together, according to the events the leader wants for his troops. They emphasize their versatility and adaptability to whatever the unit leader has in mind.
According to James Woods, a lead instructor in the BCTB Gaming Section, “We have a mobile package that we can take anywhere. The 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division told us,
‘We want you to set up at Range 143 for a week,’ so we packed up the computers, went down and trained the unit. They actually practiced going downrange in the virtual world before they executed the range with real bullets. They had the same procedures, the same steps, the same scenarios. If you can think of how you want it done and have a place for us to set up, we can do it.”
The key idea is to prepare the warrior to be tactically and technically proficient. This can be done from the individual or squad level all the way up to battalion or brigade levels. The BCTB has done two division exercises, but those generally require a larger facility because they have a broader focus. Another major point for all unit leaders is to realize that the BCTB is not going to turn anyone away.
To explain about their turnaround time from request to delivery, Woods gave an example of a military police unit that was unexpectedly prevented from going downrange. A sergeant called up, explained the situation and within an hour and a half they were in training. Woods added, “The more lead time we get on more intensive missions, the better for everyone. The more intense, the more specific the mission, the more time it will take to put the training together but the better it will be for the war fighter.”
Like anything else, the more detailed the leader’s plan that is brought to BCTB, the better the training scenarios they can create. For example, in the simulations, the war fighter will be able to hear a helicopter arrive. The realism is so vivid that the helicopter will be heard approaching from the direction specified, in real time, louder and louder. To the Soldier, the only thing missing would be the feel and smell of the dust as it lands. The scenarios can be so thorough that even the issues of fratricide are possible.
Fort Carson’s BCTB is so unique that other posts, like Fort Bliss, Texas, Joint Base Lewis/McChord, Washington, and even the Navy and Air Force have taken advantage of their state-of-the-art facilities.
To schedule training or a tour, contact Deborah Martin at 526-9898.
The Smith Simulation Center of the BCTB is located at 2426 Wetzel Ave. It faces Wetzel Avenue and is between Polio and Khe Sahn streets, just north of the Autocraft Center.