New Outdoor Infantry Trainer at Lejeune to Immerse Marines in Sounds, Smells of Battle

Members of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and 1st Intelligence Battalion, 1st Marine Division, survey a simulated attack zone during the Infantry Integration with Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Operations (CI-HUMINT) (TACEX 19.2) at Camp Pendleton, California, on March 21, 2019. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexa Hernandez)
Members of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and 1st Intelligence Battalion, 1st Marine Division, survey a simulated attack zone during the Infantry Integration with Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Operations (CI-HUMINT) (TACEX 19.2) at Camp Pendleton, California, on March 21, 2019. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexa Hernandez)

The Marine Corps is building a new infantry immersion training complex that will bring the sights, sounds and smells of the urban battlefield to squads and platoons at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The Corps recently awarded a $28.3 million contract to Sauer Inc. to build the outdoor infantry immersion trainer (IIT) -- a five-acre complex of 51 buildings with 129 rooms scheduled to be completed in 2021, Brian Thompson, who oversees range training systems and support for the Marine Corps' Range and Training Program Division, told Military.com.

Lejeune has an indoor IIT, he said, explaining that the new outdoor IIT will provide II Marine Expeditionary Force units with the same level of realistic training that a similar IIT provides Marines at Camp Pendleton, California.

Marine units will work with the IIT's training support center to craft a training scenario geared toward the needs of the unit's squads and platoons.

"It's a scenario based on training they need for future deployments or missions they may have," Thompson said. "Most units will do about three days."

Members of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, rescue a simulated casualty during the Infantry Immersion Trainer at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on July 18, 2019. The IIT is an urban training area with various complexes that provide realistic and situational training to the various infantry units stationed at Camp Lejeune. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Caleb T. Maher)
Members of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, rescue a simulated casualty during the Infantry Immersion Trainer at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on July 18, 2019. The IIT is an urban training area with various complexes that provide realistic and situational training to the various infantry units stationed at Camp Lejeune. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Caleb T. Maher)

The village setting will feature a sound system, a centrally controlled light emitting diode system that replicates candlelight, and a smell-generation system.

"It's like special effects," Thompson said. "You have smell generators that we can [use to] provide a myriad of smells -- from the market street bakeries to decay to gunpowder smells -- just about any smell you can think of to get that realism into the training."

Currently, Marine units at Lejeune have access to urban training facilities, but they have to request smoke, smell and noise generators as well as role players for training, he said, explaining that the IIT will provide all of those training assets.

The IIT will also provide tools for units to conduct detailed after-action reviews.

"Everything is recorded ... and this is all compiled into an after-action report so, after they do a scenario, the small unit would come into the after-action review area, where they would bring up the video of the scenario and walk them through it," Thompson said. "It's pretty neat to see them the first time they walk through the scenario. You see mistakes, and the good thing is they sit down and talk about the good things and the bad things."

Members of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 5th Marine Regiment, patrol through an urban area during a training evolution at the Infantry Immersion Trainer at Camp Pendleton, California, on July 16, 2019. The IIT is a training facility that gives Marines the chance to use practical application to strengthen their tactical and decision-making skills in a scenario-based environment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)
Members of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 5th Marine Regiment, patrol through an urban area during a training evolution at the Infantry Immersion Trainer at Camp Pendleton, California, on July 16, 2019. The IIT is a training facility that gives Marines the chance to use practical application to strengthen their tactical and decision-making skills in a scenario-based environment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

At the end of the training scenario, units are given a DVD of the after-action reviews, "so they are able to take those back and continue to study and learn from them," he said.

"There is no live-fire capability in the IIT," Thompson said. Units will use blank ammunition. Units will also have to use their own Marines if they want a conventional adversary for force-on-force training.

The IIT's role-players, however, will be capable of conducting small ambushes and suicide-bomber attacks, he said.

The Corps hopes to complete the first phase of the IIT -- which will include all the buildings and infrastructure -- by spring 2021, followed by the installation of all the atmospheric systems later that year, Thompson said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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