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Lance Cpl. Richard D. Smith, a motor transportation operator with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Tank Battalion, drives through one of the simulations in a virtual Mine Resistant Armor Protected vehicle Sept. 15. Simulators for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, as well as humvees and 7-tons, are maintained at the Combat Center’s Battle Simulation Center to give Marines a feel for driving tactical vehicles without the huge expenditures in fuel, maintenance and repairs.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael Nerl

Tactical vehicle simulator brings driving practice into new age

19 Sep 2008 | Lance Cpl. Michael Nerl

One of the leading causes of vehicle mishaps in Operation Iraqi Freedom has been vehicle roll-overs due to the size and weight, in particular the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. In order to minimize these mishaps, the Operators Drivers Simulator has been utilized by the majority of the training units going through Mojave Viper, a month-long pre-deployment training evolution, and tenant units about the Combat Center.

The ODS is a computer-generated tactical vehicle simulator capable of simulating three different variants of armored vehicles, the M1114, Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement MTVR and the MRAP.

The ODS provides Marines a realistic familiarization of the vehicle before operating the real thing.

“With the constant improvements the Marine Corps are doing to enhance the survivability of the Marines in tactical vehicles, so will their pre-training criteria need to increase. I think the ODS has met that responsibility tri-fold,” said Doug Peercy, the operator and maintainer of the ODS.

The ODS simulator is located at Camp Wilson, right beside the Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer and Virtual Combat Convoy Trainer, in order  to best support the majority of service members training aboard the Combat Center.

The cost of upkeep and repairs on the simulators is very low compared to the actual vehicles.  So far there haven’t been any problems with the system in almost three years, said Peercy. 

Some of the mishaps are caused by driver inexperience due to a lack of road time and basic familiarization of the armored vehicles they are driving. Because of simulation technology, the time spent in the ODS has been invaluable.

Peercy gives a short class on the specific variant of armored vehicle the Marines are about to train in prior to them getting into the simulator. He uses his experience from the past 20 years of service in the Marine Corps as a motor transportation chief and his time in Iraq last year to provide the Marines with real world experiences.

The simulator has the ability to change driving conditions to meet the unit commanders’ intents, including weather, traffic, on road, off road, day time and night time. This way you can practice black-out driving conditions during the day and then switch into combat environment to practice improvised explosive device’s and car bombs tactical training procedures.

“One of the best parts of the simulator is that the driver can make a mistake in a peace-time, controlled, safe environment with out the logistical nightmare of a mishap in a dangerous uncontrollable environment,” said Peercy, a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

According to the licensing manual, Marines can use up to 50 miles in the simulator to achieve their incidental humvee licenses, and for up-grades to either the MTVR or the MRAP you can drive 25 miles in the simulator.  This gives Marines and their command an added edge for better driving practices without the huge expenditures for fuel, maintenance and repairs, said Peercy.

“These vehicles can be flipped fairly easily, and very few Marines have experience driving these new machines,” Peercy added.  “It’s a logistical nightmare if a Cougar gets turned over.  The average CAT I weighs around 40,000 pounds depending on what modifications are on it.”

A lot of time is spent with each Marine in teaching them how to drive in the center of their lane, because of the width of the MRAP (100 inches for the CAT I and 108 inches for the CAT II) there is not a lot of room for error. A majority of the role-overs are due to the driver getting too close to the edge on the right side while maneuvering on narrow dirt roads, causing the road to collapse from the weight of these trucks. Marines get a better understanding of the correct way to operate the vehicle by first doing it in the simulator.

“Everyone has to be aware that the MRAP was designed to travel on paved surfaces only.  Even though the MRAP is four-wheel or six-wheel drive does not make it an off road vehicle,” said Peercy.

Peercy guided two Marines from 1st Tank Battalion through the MRAP simulator Monday. 

“I’ve never actually driven an MRAP before,” said Lance Cpl. Richard D. Smith, a motor transportation operator with Headquarters and Service Company and a native of Nashville, Tenn.  “I normally drive a 7-ton, and it’s similar to this in a lot of ways with the really limited visibility and how high the center of gravity is.  I look forward to driving one of these in reality.”

The other Marine practicing on the simulator also had little experience with the MRAP vehicle.

“I’ve never driven one either,” said Sgt. Mike Trotter, a motor transportation mechanic with Headquarters and Service Company.  “I’m not even a driver so I’m still learning some about the other vehicles, and I hope that getting extra practice like this will really help me be more skilled in that area.”

For more information on how the ODS can dramatically enhance your unit and/or individual driver training needs, contact Mr. Peercy at (734)-972-9365, or by e-mail at

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