TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines with Company F, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division participated in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Egress Training at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center here June 21. Marines were able to practice the necessary techniques to survive a vehicle rollover, as part of Integrated Training Exercise 4-13, a cornerstone of the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Program. It is the largest annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserve training exercise.
Even though tank operators don’t typically find themselves operating in vehicles other than tanks, the rise of unconventional warfare in places like Afghanistan has caused Marines to adapt.
“The simulator helped build confidence in the Marines. The better they know the equipment and processes, the more effective they will be,” said Stan Jenkins, chief instructor for battle simulations. “Some of these Marines have never been in a vehicle like this and others drive tactical vehicles like this every day. Either way, it is good for them to be familiar with this vehicle since most likely they will find themselves in one at some point during their military career.”
There are three simulators used to mimic a vehicle rollover. Each simulator is shaped like the main body of an MRAP vehicle and is connected to a wheel that spins the vehicle completely upside down. The MRAP vehicle relies on heavy armor to protect its occupants, which in turn makes it more susceptible to tipping over. All of the doors on the vehicle are locked while the simulator is in motion, when it stops the instructor opens one of the doors and the Marines inside must escape within a two-minute time limit.
“Some of the other tank companies have deployed as route-clearance platoons in Afghanistan, which makes this training much more pertinent to us. If we get deployed and assigned as route clearance support, we will most likely be using this type of vehicle,” said Sgt. Christopher Rogers, a tank commander, from Coats, N.C. “It serves as a good piece of training that Marines can fall back on if they ever find themselves in such a situation.”
The simulator also uses a series of foam radio boxes and ammo cans to simulate the dangers that equipment can cause when not properly secured inside a vehicle.
“We saw how gear would fly all over the place and hit Marines in the head. Had it been a real life situation, there would have been some serious injuries from it,” said Sgt. Joseph Eatman, a tank gunner, from Clayton, N.C. “I don’t think most people realize how easily these vehicles can flip over or the seriousness of what can happen during a flip.”
Even troops who operate these vehicles regularly found the egress trainer to be useful.
“I’ve done this trainer many times before, but I still learn from it,” said Cpl. Jamie Somerson, a motor transport operator, from Douglasville, Ga. “We are always driving, so this training is crucial to help us stay safe in a real-life scenario. You’ve got to be able to get out quick, fast and in a hurry with safety in mind.”
Less-experienced Marines had the opportunity to learn from the different scenarios offered by the simulator. For some, this was their first exposure to the danger of a vehicle rollover.
“This is my first time doing this event. It is easily some of the best training I’ve had for an emergency rollover,” said Lance Cpl. Terrence Powell, a motor transport operator, from Greenville, N.C. “Now that I have gone through it, I feel more confident if the scenario ever presented itself.”
The participants were under pressure to get out of the simulator quickly, but this training showed Marines how to handle that pressure.
“The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this is knowing how to stay calm under pressure,” said Lance Cpl. Hector Martinez, a motor transport operator, from Jacksonville, N.C. “It is really hectic trying to get out fast and then make sure that everyone else makes it out. That’s why we have this training so we can stay calm during an emergency and save lives.”
Marines with 4th Tanks rolled on continuing training and honing their combat-readiness during a handful of live fire exercises. Tankers participated in the mechanized assault course as well as a culminating exercise to demonstrate everything learned at ITX 4-13.