New urban training facility open at Fort Pickett

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Bedford-based Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conduct civil disturbance training Oct. 14, 2017, at the newly-opened Combined Arms Collective Training Facility at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The first Virginia National Guard unit to utilize Fort Pickett’s new urban operations training site took advantage of the facility’s instrumentation to create more realistic training scenarios and provide leaders with the ability to watch multiple locations in real time and capture video for after action reviews. Soldiers assigned to the Bedford-based Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conducted civil disturbance training Oct. 14, 2017, at the newly-opened Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, or CACTF.

“Saturday was an excellent training day for Alpha Company,” said Capt. Martin O. Sexton, Alpha Company commander. “We were able to further hone our civil disturbance response skills in a diverse environment with multiple scenarios to play out, and the CACTF offered us unique variables to incorporate into our training.”

The newly-opened Combined Arms Collective Training Facility has a total of 30 buildings for training, and 11 of them are instrumented with cameras, speakers, microphones and infrared illuminators. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

The CACTF has a total of 30 buildings for training, and 11 are equipped with cameras, speakers, microphones and infrared illuminators, explained retired 1st Sgt. David T. Phillips, range officer at Fort Pickett Range Operations. The buildings include a church with a usable steeple, a police station with functional jail cells, a fire department with working vehicle door, multi-level apartment units with randomized internal layouts, a school with multiple classrooms and floor layouts and a building that could simulate a hotel or embassy. Many of the buildings are outfitted with anchors for rappelling, and an underground tunnel network connects multiple buildings.

Phillips explained that the 11 instrumented buildings feature 175 interior cameras with full infrared illumination for night operations, full recording and playback capabilities for after action reviews. All cameras have microphones for local recording and communication with the operations center. There are also two exterior dual-sensor, pole-mounted camera systems, with full 360-degree pan and tilt capability. The optical camera has optical and digital zoom for clear pictures within 2,000 plus meters and the thermal companion camera with multiple color enhancements for clarity during night training.

The instrumentation in the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility provides leaders with the ability to watch multiple locations in real time and capture video for after action reviews. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

The instrumented building also features interior and exterior speaker systems that can be placed in multiple locations depending on the training scenario, Phillips said. The speakers are under the control of the operations center personnel and can play distracting music, sound effects, announcements and ceasefires. They also feature two-way communication with personnel.

The facility also features multiple locations for pre-operations briefings, safety lectures and after action reviews that include sand tables for scenario planning and bleachers for lectures, Phillips said. These locations are also able to be configured as tactical operations centers. At the end of the training, the operations center personnel are able to create a take home package that includes all exercise video recordings.

Sexton said that the after action review capabilities at this site are a leading reason in us returning again.

“Our final lanes were AAR’ed with the footage attained from the multitude of cameras on the site and played back for each Soldier to see,” he said. “It is a great coaching tool to be able to point out situations and how Soldiers acted in that very second, good or bad.”

Sexton said he plans for his company to use the training facility again because of the “multitude of enablers” that would add further depth to their infantry training as well as the “incredible AAR facilities.”

Fort Pickett is comprised of approximately 41,000 acres and is operated by the Virginia National Guard. It features a combination of open and wooded terrain maneuver areas and 21 ranges capable of supporting almost any weapons system in the U. S. Army inventory. In addition, the installation has a rail spur and C-17 capable airfield as well as barracks to support more than 5,000 personnel and morale, welfare and recreation facilities including a gym, post exchange and leisure center.

A simulated church with working steeple and police station are among the 30 building at the new Fort Pickett Combined Arms Collective Training Facility. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

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