9th Regiment Advanced Camp Cadets, especially those who love video games, showed off their marksmanship skills during Engagement Skills Training (EST) on July 16, 2021.

Much like immediate feedback from a gaming system, EST connects the virtual world to real world experiences.

A Cadet aims at a target on-screen for Engagement Skills Training (EST). Cadets fire 2 iterations of 40 rounds each at virtual targets ranging from 50 to 300 meters away. Fort Knox, Ky. July 16, 2021 | Photo by Olivia Van Den Heuvel, CST Public Affairs

“The Army figured out a way to replicate what real-life shooting would be like. We can use something virtual, on the screen, and we can still learn from that,” said Alexander Pizana, University of Illinois at Chicago.

The simulation allows Cadets to enhance skills they acquired just days before at Primary Marksmanship Instruction (PMI). During PMI, Cadets receive in-depth training focusing on proper breathing and aiming techniques.

Following PMI, Cadets go to EST, simulating the range they will be at for Weapons Group & Zero, where they will fire live ammunition at targets. Cadets then qualify on the range which serves as a final test of their weapon skills. It is a must-pass event for Advanced Camp at Cadet Summer Training (CST).

“Having EST to prepare us for the real qualification helps us get those repetitions in, which makes it a lot easier,” Pizana said.

At EST, Cadets group and zero their weapons, just as they would on a real range.

“We make sure our scopes are accurate and our shooting is accurate, then we go through a qualification cycle where targets pop up in different areas and we are responsible to judge the distance and react,” said Garrett DeFazio, Virginia Military Institute.

Screens showing the Cadets’ results after shooting at virtual targets during Engagement Skills Training (EST) allow them to see where they are doing well and where they can improve. Fort Knox, Ky. July 16, 2021 | Photo by Olivia Van Den Heuvel, CST Public Affairs

M4s modified with compressed air imitates the sensation of the gun going off when the trigger is pulled, simulating what it’s like to fire live ammunition. The technology in EST tracks each Cadet’s progress, showing them where they hit the target, where they excel and where they can improve.

Cadets engage a variety of digital targets on screen, ranging from 50 to 300 meters away.

“If a target is closer I would aim lower, if it’s slightly farther then I would aim higher,” said Pizana.

For some Cadets, CST may feel like being inside a video game, while for others it requires a bit more willpower. Pizana believes that overcoming your apprehensions is part of the fun.

“Substitute your fear with excitement and enjoy it,” said Pizana, recalling his fear of heights on the 65-foot rappel tower.