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Photo Information

Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, shoot M-16 rifles while training with the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, Aug. 10, 2012, on Camp Buehring, Kuwait. The Marines are in Kuwait as part of a 24th MEU sustainment training package. The 24th MEU is deployed with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Photo by Sgt. Richard Blumenstein

‘EST 2000’ puts Marines on target, provides creative supplement to marksmanship training

13 Aug 2012 | Sgt. Richard Blumenstein 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Exploding flying turkeys and hoards of terrorist attackers nicknamed ‘zombies’ may sound like the next greatest shoot ‘em’ up video game headed to the sales racks, but for some Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 24, these simulations provided an entertaining training tool that allowed them to get some trigger time while away from the ship.

The Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, called EST 2000 for short, gave the Marines a venue to have some fun practicing realistic marksmanship skills, while ashore recently conducting a wide variety of training exercises in vast, desert training areas.

While exploding turkeys and zombies don’t illustrate the realistic scenarios the EST 2000 initially presented to the Marines for training, it demonstrates the system’s versatility in creating any simulation service members can think of. 

“I don’t think of this as a video game, I think of it as a training tool,” said Randy Roller, the EST site lead with the Warrior Training Alliance who set up the training with the Marines. “It’s all limited to the imagination of the trainer.  If the trainer can think it, we can come up with a scenario and make it run.”

Using the EST 2000 simulator allowed them to refresh their skills and prepare for small arms, live-fire ranges they were scheduled to conduct a few days later.

The simulations the Marines focused on included firing targets at unknown distances using M-16 and M-4 rifles at distances ranging from 25 to 400 meters away. At the end of each course of fire a screen would appear displaying their hits and misses. 

In the scenarios the Marines practiced firing in rapid succession and the various targets that were programmed to appear randomly.  They also dealt with simulated weapons malfunctions so they could practice getting their weapon back in operating order and get back into the fight.

“This situation is more typical of combat because you need to adjust quickly to different targets at different ranges and different shapes,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Strickland, a Nashville, N.C. native and the logistics officer for CLB 24. “You need to be able to engage them quickly to maintain the upper hand in the fight.”

According to CUBIC Defense Systems, the parent company of the EST 2000, the system provides a highly accurate and configurable system that helps soldiers to acquire, sustain, and sharpen tactical engagement skills relevant to their mission. The system allows service members to focus on various marksmanship scenarios, group training up to the squad level, and decision making scenarios that force the service members to decide to shoot, or restrain from shooting.

To describe it simply though, it is similar to a giant videogame where the controller is any weapon system ranging from 9mm pistols  to a MK-19 automatic grenade launchers, and the scenario can be created to cater to whatever the unit training needs are.

The weapon systems also replicate the sounds of, and have around 70 to 80 percent of, the actual kickback of firing the weapon in real life because of air compressors, said Roller.

“It is definitely a lot better than a video game,” said Lance Cpl. Lee Wade, a Placerville, Calif. native and field radio operator with CLB 24. “I would rather do this than play Call of Duty.”

The Marines of CLB 24 make up the logistics combat element for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Many of the 24th MEU’s Marines spent approximately two months at Camp Buehring and the Udairi Ranges in Kuwait conducting a variety of sustainment training exercises while deployed in the U.S. Central Command and 5th Fleet area of responsibility.