Ft. Drum army base uses high tech help to train soldiers
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FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- More than a dozen soldiers pack into an MRAP, all about to simulate one of the scariest things they could ever encounter: Driving over an IED.
"It's like being on a roller coaster. You go into an amusement park and you get into like the Salt Shaker, you get spun around and thrown in every direction," said SSG Joshua Mills, 725th EOD.
First thing first, there's a whole list of safety checks that all soldiers must be following before the vehicle can move. After several rollovers and simulated explosions, the MRAP stops upside down.
A couple of minutes on your head forces you to realize just how hard it is to just unbuckle with all that gear on. And as one soldier learned, when you do unbuckle, you still have to be sure you're sturdy.
After getting some help getting unbuckled, we had to crawl on the MRAP's ceiling to find an open door, and then find safety.
"It saves a lot of soldiers’ lives. We've had several accidents already on Fort Drum here that this vehicle, the training that they did actually saved their lives," said senior instructor Bob Rhoades.
And if soldiers make it out of the MRAP okay, they never know what could be awaiting them outside. Another type of training helps them better protect themselves.
"It's awesome. It's like playing Modern Warfare on a big screen. It really helps us training wise because sometimes we are not able to go out to the range and get live rounds,” said 1st LT. Peter Murphy, Fox Co. 2-10 BSB.
I'm not a big war video game guy, so I was not expecting much when I gave it a try.
"Honest assessment. You did great. You had a tight shot group. Your breathing was good and you didn't have any problems with the trigger squeeze," said 1st LT. Peter Murphy, Fox Co. 2-10 BSB.
We went back to the helicopter simulators. First, the AH-64, where we got a chance to see real life controls and screens that help get these attack pilots ready.
"The whole point is to make sure the procedures are tactically sound. They're finding targets, they're tracking targets and they're shooting targets correctly," explained Jim Chandler, AH-64 LCT.
But more importantly, I got the chance to get a little familiar with what lay ahead: Piloting. It was back to the massive, multi-million dollar Blackhawk simulator.
"We can replicate anything the pilots would encounter in real world out there," said Timothy McDougall, Simulated Flight Instructor.
Of course the main worry was...what goes up, must come down.
"You actually did pretty well. You took off, flew and landed the aircraft without me having to, we have a crash override switch that doesn't allow you to crash. I didn't have that on," said McDougall.
A job well done, or so I thought. Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Bourland was my co-pilot.
"You did good. No help from me," said Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Bourland.