MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
In the ever-evolving environment in which the United States Marine Corps fights its battles, there is a facility aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton that is dedicated to adapting its training environment to match. This facility is known as the Infantry Immersion Trainer. Also known as the I.I.T, this facility is a major benefit to the Marine Corps through its creation of the most realistic training scenarios possible.
The Marine Corps has recently returned to the Fleet Marine Force after more than 30 years of operating as an expeditionary force. This shift is stated to be a precursor for a return to a more traditional amphibious warfare. The terrain and climate in the jungles of the Pacific islands is quite different than that of Southern California. However, through this state of the art complex, Camp Pendleton is able to custom tailor real world scents, sights, and sounds to meet any training environment required of this return to the Fleet Marine Force.
“For the Infantry Immersion Trainer, it was initially built in the OIF/OEF period. But, as early as 2012, we started doing Pacific Rim items for Somalia or the Philippines. Later on, it was South America, Central America and North Korea,” stated Bert Thielen, Infantry Immersion Trainer Site Manager.
With the shift of focus to Fleet Marine Force operations, the I.I.T facility is ready for training. The operators of the facility have been readily adapting the complex depending on foreign operational environments. From different terrains of the middle east, to islands in the Philippines, the I.I.T is able to provide a unique experience to better train units before they deploy.
“In the future, I don’t see more changes coming...until something becomes a signal that we should have it,” said Thielen. “We were able to catch up with a lot of the atmospheric refreshments that we wanted.”
Complete with surround sound speaker systems, scent producers, and actors portraying everything from locals to combatants, the experience is as close to real life as possible. Native languages, scents, and customs are all recreated to educate units on what they might encounter in future deployments. While the units are working with their teams in a wide array of scenarios, video surveillance records the training. By filming the training exercises, leaders of all levels are capable of having a bird's eye view while their team operates. The footage can then be presented in front of all participants to be examined for mistakes and teaching opportunities.
“The training that we do, we tailor it to what the units want. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s an infantry unit, or a C.A.G [Civil Affairs Group] unit, or if it’s Navy Seals. We tailor it to fit their needs,” said Thielen.
Having the ability to create these life-like scenarios is invaluable to the Marine Corps. The training that is conducted here every day is focused down to the last detail. This ensures that Marines are ready for whatever environment they may experience, making them the most prepared they can be before any mission anywhere in the world.
Thielen concluded that, “I consider it a privilege to work here…I know the value of the training that goes on here, it saves people's lives.”