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Vandenberg acquires 'shocking' new simulator

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members from the 30th Security Forces Squadron storm a virtually simulated room in a firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members from the 30th Security Forces Squadron storm a virtually simulated room in a firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Airman 1st Class Molly Shortt, a 30th Security Forces Squadron member, runs through a combat scenario in the firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Airman 1st Class Molly Shortt, a 30th Security Forces Squadron member, runs through a combat scenario in the firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Airman 1st Class Molly Shortt, a 30th Security Forces Squadron member, runs through a combat scenario in the firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Airman 1st Class Molly Shortt, a 30th Security Forces Squadron member, runs through a combat scenario in the firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Airman 1st Class Molly Shortt, a 30th Security Forces Squadron member, talks down an aggressive suspect during a scenario in the firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Airman 1st Class Molly Shortt, a 30th Security Forces Squadron member, talks down an aggressive suspect during a scenario in the firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Airmen from the 30th Security Forces Squadron talk down an aggressive suspect during a scenario in the firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Airmen from the 30th Security Forces Squadron talk down an aggressive suspect during a scenario in the firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Airman 1st Class Emily Groth and Airman 1st Class Molly Shortt, both 30th Security Forces Squadron members, review a combat scenario they just completed in the firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Airman 1st Class Emily Groth and Airman 1st Class Molly Shortt, both 30th Security Forces Squadron members, review a combat scenario they just completed in the firearms training simulator at the Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308) here Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. The new simulator provides a virtual training environment for Vandenberg members to practice real-world combat tactics and scenarios based on Air Force qualification courses. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An Airman uses her combat boot to kick down a door. Her partner quickly enters the room with a weapon drawn. Shots are fired, shouts are heard. Within seconds three adversaries are killed. The room goes dark and the scenario is over.

Similar scenarios are the new standard at Vandenberg's Combat Arms Training Complex (Building 21308).

In October 2011, Vandenberg became the first Air Force installation to acquire a VirTra Systems simulator to train Airmen and local law enforcement personnel on marksmanship and combat-related scenarios.

"This simulator is the best as far as simulator training goes - it is second to none," said Senior Airman Jesse Phillips, a 30th Security Force Squadron Combat Arms instructor. "As Airmen become more involved in the war-fighting efforts overseas, this system will help better train our Airmen prior to deploying them."

VirTra Systems puts Airmen in a 300-degree, wrap-around simulator, that allows them to train in difficult real-world situations such as improvised explosive device recognition, ambushes and maintaining situational awareness during extreme stress.

"One of the really awesome things about the simulator is the threat-fire capability in which a shock is given off by a taser that sits on the belt of the individual who is going through the course to simulate the individual being shot," said Phillips.

The threat-fire device is used to safely simulate an adversary returning fire with an electric impulse, which reinforces an Airman's performance under pressure.

"I have experienced the shock," said Airman 1st Class Emily Groth, from the 30th SFS. "It does hurt. It feels like a big rubber band snapping on you. It is more shocking than anything. It only hurts when it happens; once it's done you're fine."

The simulator will yield several benefits for the base. For instance, simulated rounds versus actual live rounds will save the base in annual ammunition costs.

"The overall cost the base is going to save on this simulator is roughly $80,000 a year," said Phillips. "Each shot fired on the range would cost us roughly $1.10, whereas the cost for the carbon dioxide used in the weapons of the simulator is less than a penny per shot."

In addition to cost savings, the simulator provides its administrators with data used to sharpen the marksmanship of its users.

"If someone comes out to shoot and fails the qualification course, we can bring them inside and have them go through a full diagnostic test using the simulator to help them understand what they are doing wrong," Phillips said. "With this system, we are going to be able to save some careers."

For example, if an Airman repeatedly fails the Air Force's rifle qualification course, it could be grounds for dismissal from the military.

"With this simulator, we are able to run a diagnostic test and figure out exactly what an Airman is doing wrong to save his or her career," said Phillips.

Benefits aside, the real value of the simulator comes from the experience it provides its users.

"It gives us the opportunity to try different scenarios," said Groth. "When you're out on the job, you're going to have to use your peripheral vision, which we can practice by using this simulator. This will give us more of an input for when we actually have to go out on the roads and do our jobs. Everything seems to be more realistic - this simulator is a great experience."