Support: August 27, 2005


To help get reserve (especially National Guard) troops in shape for Iraqi duty more quickly, the U.S. Army has created a portable combat training center (the eXportable Combat Training Capability, or XCTC). Since the 1980s, the army has used highly realistic training centers to accurately reproduce most of the stresses and characteristics of combat. The first of these was the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, California. The NTC, and subsequent centers,  have provided invaluable training for troops who have never been in combat. But these training centers are expensive to set up and run, and you have to bring the troops to them. With so many reserve troops going to Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been a bottleneck with the limited training centers available. So the XCTC was developed. It consists of several tractor-trailers full of equipment. The gear used includes GPS tracking devices for the troops and their vehicles, computers and software to track troop movement and combat, and a staff of fifteen to set up and run the exercises. Another 130 or so local civilians are hired to play civilians and enemy forces in the role playing combat exercises the troops. These usually involve convoy operations, plus cordon and search type raids. 

The GPS trackers enable XCTC computers to record everything that goes on, for later playback and critique. Its the post-battle critique that is most valuable for the troops. They can see, visually, what they did wrong, and how. The software also provides simulated UAV video for the officers being trained. The troops use the standard MILES laser tag type gear on their weapons. The troops train with MILES all the time, but the addition of the tracking and recording equipment, plus the civilians and scenarios (developed from the latest operations in Iraq), make the training extremely realistic, and useful. 

Ever since the first training center troops went into combat in 1991, they have commented that their intense training center experience was often rougher than anything they encountered on the battlefield. Thats how effective training works. XCTC units travel around to reserve units getting ready for shipment to Iraq, eliminating the need for units to wait for an open block of time in one of the existing training centers.


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