Aiming to reduce cost: Simulator produces accuracy, saves money

Combat arms instructors at the 354th Security Forces Squadron us an engagement skills trainer to save money prior to Airmen firing live ammunition.  An engagement skills trainer is a computer based training module which uses air compression and a surround sound system coupled with specially designed weapons to produce a shooting experience almost as good as the real thing (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Combat arms instructors at the 354th Security Forces Squadron us an engagement skills trainer to save money prior to Airmen firing live ammunition. An engagement skills trainer is a computer based training module which uses air compression and a surround sound system coupled with specially designed weapons to produce a shooting experience almost as good as the real thing (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Rounds from a simulated M-4 Carbine virtually penetrate a target on an engagement skills trainer at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. After completing classroom training, Airmen have the opportunity to hone their shooting skills using an engagement skills trainer. The system provides an effective, cutting edge learning experience before stepping foot on a live-fire range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Rounds from a simulated M-4 Carbine virtually penetrate a target on an engagement skills trainer at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. After completing classroom training, Airmen have the opportunity to hone their shooting skills using an engagement skills trainer. The system provides an effective, cutting edge learning experience before stepping foot on a live-fire range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U. S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Greg Chmielewski , 354th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, offers shooting advice while using the engagement skills trainer at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. After completing classroom training, Airmen have the opportunity to hone their shooting skills using an engagement skills trainer, which save money on live ammunition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U. S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Greg Chmielewski , 354th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, offers shooting advice while using the engagement skills trainer at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. After completing classroom training, Airmen have the opportunity to hone their shooting skills using an engagement skills trainer, which save money on live ammunition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Greg Chmielewski, 354th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, offers shooting advice while using the engagement skills trainer at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. An engagement skills trainer is a computer based training module which uses air compression and a surround sound system coupled with specially designed weapons to produce a shooting experience almost as good as the real thing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Greg Chmielewski, 354th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, offers shooting advice while using the engagement skills trainer at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. An engagement skills trainer is a computer based training module which uses air compression and a surround sound system coupled with specially designed weapons to produce a shooting experience almost as good as the real thing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Stinnett, 354th SFS combat arms instructor, analyzes shots fired by Airmen training on the engagement skills trainer at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. As the mark is analyzed on the computer, instructors can give enhanced advice to shooters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Seth Stinnett, 354th SFS combat arms instructor, analyzes shots fired by Airmen training on the engagement skills trainer at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. As the mark is analyzed on the computer, instructors can give enhanced advice to shooters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Anthony Walker, 354th Communications Squadron quality assurance inspector, fires an M-4 Carbine at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Before stepping foot on a live-fire range Airmen go through a day of classroom training and practice on an engagement skills trainer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Anthony Walker, 354th Communications Squadron quality assurance inspector, fires an M-4 Carbine at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Before stepping foot on a live-fire range Airmen go through a day of classroom training and practice on an engagement skills trainer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Greg Chmielewski, 354th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, demonstrates a shooting stance at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. After completing classroom training, Airmen have the opportunity to hone their shooting skills using an engagement skills trainer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Greg Chmielewski, 354th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, demonstrates a shooting stance at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. After completing classroom training, Airmen have the opportunity to hone their shooting skills using an engagement skills trainer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Airmen listen to instruction on how to fire an M-4 Carbine at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. After completing classroom training, Airmen have the opportunity to hone their shooting skills using an engagement skills trainer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Airmen listen to instruction on how to fire an M-4 Carbine at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. After completing classroom training, Airmen have the opportunity to hone their shooting skills using an engagement skills trainer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Staff Sgt. Tony Johnson, 354th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, analyzes a target with a deploying Airmen at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013. Before stepping foot on a live-fire range Airmen go through a day of classroom training and practice on an engagement skills trainer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Staff Sgt. Tony Johnson, 354th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, analyzes a target with a deploying Airmen at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013. Before stepping foot on a live-fire range Airmen go through a day of classroom training and practice on an engagement skills trainer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Airmen collect expended brass shell casings after firing an M-4 Carbine at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Prior to shooting live ammunition Airmen practice on a virtual range called an engagement skills trainer saving money on live ammunition prior to setting foot on a live-fire range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)
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Airmen collect expended brass shell casings after firing an M-4 Carbine at the Combat Arms Training Range July 9, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Prior to shooting live ammunition Airmen practice on a virtual range called an engagement skills trainer saving money on live ammunition prior to setting foot on a live-fire range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- As the action snaps back and the sound of the rifle cracks, the only thing missing to make the scenario real is the smell of burnt gun powder.

Combat arms instructors from the 354th Security Forces Squadron utilize an engagement skills trainer to promote accuracy while saving hundreds of thousands of dollars on live ammunition.

An engagement skills trainer is a computer based training module which uses air compression and a surround sound system coupled with specially designed weapons to produce a shooting experience almost as good as the real thing, said Staff Sgt. Seth Stinnett, 354th SFS combat arms instructor.

The system, combined with classroom-based training, provides an effective, cutting-edge learning experience before stepping foot on a live-fire range.

"This system has definitely been a huge success for our wing," he said. "It takes the fundamentals we are talking about in the classroom and turns them into safe, hands-on scenarios."

Stinnett said with the skyrocketing price of ammunition, shooting with a simulator gives Airmen the opportunity to shoot twice as much with half the cost.

"We shoot more than 350,000 rounds of ammunition a year just in routine training," he said. "We cut cost by having each student practice on a computer before getting into live fire."

While Airmen fire at the movie theater-sized illuminated screen, an instructor sits at a monitor watching each round virtually penetrate a target. As the mark is analyzed on the computer, instructors can give enhanced advice to shooters.

"We definitely see a difference if we don't use the simulated training," said Staff Sgt. Tony Johnson, 354th SFS combat arms instructor. "When we see someone failing to hit a target on the screen, we know that is who we need to give a little more advice to rather than wasting live rounds to correct problems."

The system is installed and maintained by Cubic Defense Operations. Their subject matter expert, Michael Harris, who travels the world providing similar equipment for many government and private security agencies, said the systems can last more than 20 years. This leads to more ammunition saved.

"These systems are real firearms, the more they are fired the better they work," Harris said. "The weapons require routine maintenance because they are actual weapons modified to fit electronics. We make things as real as possible; anything that takes away from realism is negative training."

After spending the day learning fundamentals in the classroom and the engagement skills trainer, students head to the live firing range to prove their skills on real targets.

"We have taken Army statistics and proven that the simulators can bring accuracy from 78 to 93 percent," said Harris.

An added advantage to operating an engagement skills trainer is weapons familiarization.

"We can practice with several different weapons that most Airmen aren't used to," Stinnett said. "Often when an Airman is deployed, they will be tasked to go somewhere and do something with units using bigger or different weapons. We can let them handle them here at almost no cost, so when they are surprised with situations, they can handle it with confidence."

Stinnett encourages units on base to use the training system as often as possible, not just during scheduled range days. An instructor can train a point of contact on the machine and Airmen can stay proficient whenever possible.

"We can be charged to deploy at any moment and it's important to stay proficient at all times," he said. "With the engagement skills trainer, our Airmen can stay fit to fight without the cost of live ammunition."