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Corporal Omar Curbelo, a light armored vehicle crewman with Company E, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, looks through the Vector 21B binoculars to find the simulated targets at the Supporting Arms Virtual Trainer June 15. The trainer gives Marines a chance to call in mortar, artillery and air strikes against simulated enemy positions.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

Virtual trainer teaches Marines to call in fire support

12 Jul 2010 | Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Thorburn

War movies depict soldiers pinned down by enemy fire while radiomen yell across the air waves for artillery or air support. Seconds later, fire support rains down on the enemy, saving the day…

In reality, the support needs much more than a simple call for help, and the ones calling for it need to know what information to pass so they don’t put friendly troops in danger.

“It is a comm skill every Marine needs to know; something to have in their pockets in case it is ever needed,” said Capt. Caleb Murphy, the fire support coordinator for 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, referring to the skills necessary to call in combined arms support in a combat environment.

Aboard the Combat Center, the Supporting Arms Virtual Trainer teaches Marines everything they need to know about calling for fire.

Before Marines start working with the virtual trainer, they have to complete a 30-minute class on how to use the equipment, rules inside the trainer and proper ways to call in a strike.

“Slow is steady, steady is fast,” emphasized Jack Gavin, the SAVT site supervisor. “This is true in real life when you have to get a message across on the air waves and there is a lot of crap going on. If you can slow your heart rate down enough to speak steadily, you are going to do a lot better than if you are screaming at the top of your lungs.”

After the class, Marines can practice individually or in partners with the Vector 21B binoculars, which have an imbedded compass and rangefinder; the Defense Advanced Global Positioning System Receiver; the Ground Laser Target Designator II; and the Infrared Zoom Laser Illuminator/Designator.

This equipment can help Marines retrieve all the information they need to call in a strike during the simulation, Gavin said.

Staff Sgt. William Titus, the joint terminal attack controller for Company E, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, said this SAVT model is more user friendly and lets Marines practice with calling in more types of strikes compared to other models he has used.

As the Marines found their targets and called in each strike, other Marines waited in the room and listened to the radio conversations and watched the strikes come in on the domes screen.

This allows Marines to learn not just from their mistakes but from others as well so when they are in live combat they can accurately call in strikes on the enemy and not friendly troops.

For more information on SAVT, go to http://www. or call at 760-362-2324.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms