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NEWS | Jan. 13, 2014

Total training: Eustis' 5,000 acres of opportunity

By Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The modern warfighter requires a diversified set of skills to accomplish missions across the globe. Training often requires specialized facilities, simulated environments, firing ranges, classrooms and more.

At Fort Eustis, Service members receive comprehensive, specialized training without having to leave the post.

Fort Eustis' 7,868 acres hold more than just a typical U.S. Army post; roughly seven square miles of its land is dedicated to 26 training areas varying in sizes from several feet to a few miles across.

In addition, personnel can access six live-fire training areas, harnessing the capability of firing from a fixed position, while moving or in a changing environment.

"No matter what our people need, chances are we can find them an area to suit their training," said Willie Scott, Range Control installation training support specialist. "For instance, our ranges can accommodate vehicle-borne weapons training, qualifications, numerous firing points and pop-up targets."

According to Scott, Service members from all branches are allowed use of any of the ranges, depending on their training needs. Additionally, the ranges are open to civilian organizations. Range One supports firearm training for the Newport News Police Department exclusively, and other organizations can coordinate with Range Control for additional openings. Two ranges offer pop-up targets for reflexive-fire training, while another offers drive-and-fire practice for convoy training. Heavy weapons such as .50 caliber machine guns and M-203 grenade launchers may also be utilized with practice ammunition.

"No other facility in Virginia offers the variety we have at Fort Eustis," said Scott. "Our big open-air training areas take up the most room, but that is hardly the extent of what personnel have at their disposal."

Camping out during a tactical bivouac, or simulated deployment, and firing practice may be the "bread and butter" of Range Control's operations, but numerous specialized facilities offer Service members unique opportunities to fine-tune their service or career-specific duties.

The Navy and Marines utilize Fort Eustis' beachhead areas to simulate amphibious assaults, while the Army practices setting up causeways to unload equipment from waterborne vessels. For the maritime operations, Navy and Army ships have access to a port for tie-down operations or cargo training, and Sailors and Marines often train on the "Landship," a beached ship with a crane, for logistic operations..

Special Forces from all branches train in the swamps around Mulberry Island for tactical maneuvering in a difficult environment. Since a few training areas may be used as landing zones for helicopters, these same Special Forces teams can simulate an entire mission from beginning to end, said Scott.

If a unit doesn't require an area for large operations, Fort Eustis offers pre-made land navigation zones, obstacle courses and cargo loading areas. Units also have numerous simulators at their disposal, including the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 and Virtual Battle Space 2, which allow Service members to plunge into real-world scenarios.

The EST 2000 replicates any firearms-based training a unit could receive in the field without utilizing live rounds, fuel or manpower. Personnel can train with any weapon frame without the threat of misfire, and simulate vehicle-borne firing stations or reflexive firing training, all from inside the virtual range.

The VBS2 allows units to demonstrate their skill efficiency in a three-dimensional virtual world that replicates what users could encounter in the field. From firefights to extraction, the VBS2 offers multiple decision-based scenarios so Service members can learn how to survive without risking their lives or depleting resources.

"With all of this equipment, the professionals who maintain them and the scenarios in the classroom or in the field offered here are truly top-notch," said Scott. "People have come from across the country to use our facilities, and we are proud to see Fort Eustis at the forefront of the training mission to grow our Service members stronger, smarter and, most importantly, safer."