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Firearms training
The simulator offers cadets different training exercises such as a video training mode, a computer graphic mode, reload drills, stoppage drills, direct fire planning for team leaders and moving targets. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Mike Kaplan)
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Cadets test firearms training system in Vandenberg

Posted 3/30/2012   Updated 3/30/2012 Email story   Print story


by Amber Baillie
Public Affairs

3/30/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Day or night, rain or shine, Academy cadets can now practice target shooting hazard-free and in the convenience of their own dorm.

Cadets attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony March 22 in Vandenberg Hall for the recent installation of the Cadet Wing Firearms Training Simulator, a computer laser system for cadet weapons training. Brig. Gen. Richard Clark, Commandant of Cadets, shared his thoughts on the new technology, cut the ribbon and cadets lined up to try the new equipment.

"It provides instant feedback on hits, misses, diagnostics for a shooter, point of aim, trigger pull, and cant angle on a weapon," said Capt. Matthew Rottinghaus, Chief of the Operations Branch. "A lot of those things you can't do on a live range because it takes someone experienced to come and tell you 'Hey, you're squeezing the trigger too hard or jerking the weapon right or left,' whereas with this system, you can pull it up on a screen and see what you're doing."

There are 25 weapons with the system, all M16s, M9s and M4s. They were created from an actual weapon, de-milled and don't have to be stored in an armory.

"The weapons are based on a real weapon frame so it weighs the same as a real weapon and feels like a real weapon," Rottinghaus said. "You still have to insert the magazine, correct your malfunction, reload, use the safety and work the slide on the weapon."

When one of the weapons is pointed at the computer screen, the laser inside of the weapon is projected onto the screen, which provides feedback to the top camera and is transferred to the computer system where the operator receives feedback.

"The computer system notes when you pull the trigger on the weapon and provides 70 percent of the normal live fire recoil into the weapon, through the use of compressed air," Rottinghaus said.

Rottinghaus thought of the idea when he attended a competition at West Point and noticed they had laser simulation training for their cadets.

"I saw the system a few years ago and I thought that it would be really good for our cadets at the Academy because we have the same problems with training and getting guys on weapons," Rottinghaus said. "I came back and met with contractors; we received some follow-up money last year and purchased the system this year."

The training room is located on the first floor of Vandenberg Hall and can be reserved by the Air Officer Commanding of each squadron.

"It's fully operational, convenient and safe," Rottinghaus said. "The cadet who lives on the next floor up can come down, get their AOC to open it up and shoot without any worry of someone getting injured."

Rottinghaus said that the training room allows cadets more time to practice their shooting skills.

"If you're going to do a live fire on the range, you have to plan on 30 minutes transportation, at least an hour safety brief and if you're lucky, 30 minutes on the range to shoot," Rottinghaus said. "It doesn't give them enough time to diagnose the shooter or what they're doing wrong, whereas with the training room, cadets don't have to drive, worry about the weather and can do a 15-minute safety brief."

The system offers different training exercises such as a video training mode, a computer graphic mode, reload drills, stoppage drills, direct fire planning for team leaders and moving targets.

Cadets lined up eight at a time to run through shooter scenarios.

"It was an awesome experience," said Cadet 1st Class Michael Oakley of Cadet Squadron 30. "It's nice to get real life training here in the dorm, see what mistakes you're making and how to get better. This training is more technologically advanced than Jack's Valley."

Oakley said he attended the event to be one of the first to try the new equipment.

"I think a lot of other cadets will come and check it out," Oakley said. "I've got school going on, intramural sports and trying to get out to Jack's Valley is really hard, but to have one in our dormitory, right downstairs I think will definitely attract a lot of cadets."

Brig. Gen. Clark presented Rottinghaus and Lt. Col. Tony Valerio, Training Division Chief of Cadets, with commandant coins for their hard work and initiation of the installation.

"I think that if this all works out, this can grow," Clark said. "We're starting it now and doing a pilot project on this, but it could really be big for the Academy and increase our combat capabilities."

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