By Andy Kravetz
BARTONVILLE, Ill. (AP) – The sound of gunfire caused Spc. Christopher Wilson to perk up and look around quickly. He peered over a ridge and saw two trucks with machine guns firing at him.
“Back up, you don’t want to get shot,” said Master Sgt. Jon Oliver to Wilson who slowly backed off the ridge.
Within minutes, an F-16 made a strafing run and returned to launch a missile, destroying the vehicles. Wilson, 20, of New Athens, took a swig on his bottle of water, put down his radio and put the video game controller back on the table.
He and other artillery spotters from the Illinois Army National Guard’s 33rd Brigade Combat Team were training in a highly advanced simulator located at the 182nd Airlift Wing in Bartonville. The simulator is among the most advanced of its kind and was developed by members of the Bartonville-based wing to teach its joint terminal air controllers (JTACs) how to coordinate air support between the pilots in the sky and the troops on the ground.
Imagine a Sony PlayStation or Xbox on steroids and you might be getting close. The simulator has terrain that is accurate for Afghanistan, so much so that Oliver said you can go onto Google Earth and compare. In one room are the trainees, either airmen with the 182nd’s specialized squadrons of JTACs or the soldiers who came to Peoria to train with the JTACs to learn how to integrate the two service branches better.
Such realism is essential as the airmen are often on the ground with infantry troops or artillery spotters like Wilson.
Lt. Cols. Brian Filler and William Wheeler, head of the 168th Air Support Operations Squadron, are proud of the cooperation between the branches and even more so of the fact that airmen here in Peoria helped to design the system which is the model throughout the Air Force.
“And just wait until you see the next one,” Filler said of an improved version will feature surround sound and a dome-like screen, both of which are designed to give the JTACs a more real world feeling.1 2 next >>
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