Since 1941 Vandenberg Air Force Base has been a training installation. More than 72 years later and that has not changed.
Now the base has one of the most high-tech training tools in the country and it shares it with other agencies as well.
Five screens surround a small room with real-life videos projected on them.
“I’ve gone overseas three times. Twice to Afghanistan and once over to Iraq. So I’ve gone through a variety of deployment training and this is the first time I have gone through something like this,” said Major Stacie Shafran.
Major Shafran has been on the front lines of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, working to make schools and events safe for the Afghan people.
“It’s very realistic. I mean, the scenario that we just did reminded me of being over in Afghanistan where you are constantly scanning the horizon,” said Major Shafran.
More than a hundred different scenarios can be displayed on the screens, depending on the training needed. Open combat, clearing a building and even school shootings for local law enforcement can be simulated.
“We have branched out to local police departments, sheriff’s office, even the Department of Justice has come out,” said Staff Sergeant Jesse Phillips.
It is all controlled by a computer and with a push of a button, the situation can change in an instant.
“This allows us to branch out and change up the scenario based on the individual training at the time,” said Staff Sergeant Phillips.
The realism of the simulation room is intense. The sounds of helicopters, guns firing and people screaming sound exactly like they do in real-world situations.
“It’s one of the state-of-the-art simulators, one of the best on the market. It allows us to fully immerse ourselves within an actual combat situation or law enforcement situation,” said Staff Sergeant Phillips.
And there is a camera inside the simulator that shows trainees what they are doing right and what they’re doing wrong.
Vandenberg is the only active-duty Air Force base to have this technology.
This form of training is also saving the military money in the long run, roughly $80,000 a year.
“Ammunition being the cost that it is, and it is about $1.37 per live round and $2.00 per simunition round. To fire this weapon is less than a penny a shot,” said Staff Sergeant Phillips.
For those who enter and think it’s just a giant video game, think again.
Staff Sergeant Phillips explained how this simulator takes training to the next level, “Threat fire is essentially a Taser that hooks onto the belt, and if people aren’t taking it seriously enough or if people aren’t watching their partners, they get shot, whatever it may be, it shocks you.”
It is proving to be a valuable training asset for all who enter.
“We do all this training so that when you do step into country, you are ready to go. Nothing should be a surprise. I thought just going through that scenario was very realistic. It got my pulse up and I could feel my breathing intensifying,” said Major Shafran.
This doesn’t completely replace shooting live ammunition. The Airmen and women still train on a range.
But it does present real-life situations, which ultimately help in the battlefield, an office building or even a school.