I had National Guard drill this weekend and for the most part it was pretty uneventful. An hour or two before we were done on Sunday, however, word spread that they were testing a new combat simulator and we were welcome to give it a go.
The simulator was divided into four booths, each with a large screen. We were given an M-16 hooked up with all sorts of electronic connections. On the screen was a simulation of (I assume) an Iraqi city. The four of us in the booths played simultaneously and could interact, allowing for cooperation. The testors wanted to get us on the system as quickly as possible so they didn’t give us any information about what we’d be seeing or how to interact in this ‘world’.
We did make some good progress and quickly cleared a one building and moved onto another one. While in the second building I got separated from my ‘team leader’ and was clearing rooms by myself (meaning that I made sure there was no bad guys or booby traps in them). I ran into one room and saw a person (not a U.S. soldier) facing a wall (my first impression was the final creepy scene from The Blair Witch Project. I wasn’t sure if it was an insurgent or not and thought that maybe I was sneaking up on him. So I moved closer, with my rifle at the ready.
So, I moved even closer.
This was getting creepy.
So, now I actually ran into him. No reaction.
I wasn’t sure what to do at this point but figured what the heck.
I shot him in the back of the head.
When we had achieved our objectives and the scenario ended we got together with the people running the simulator to review our performance. All in all we did pretty good. I killed that second largest number of insurgents (but in fairness the guy who killed the most got himself ‘killed’ several times and took advantage of a feature in the game that lets you come back to life with the touch of a button – we need to get working on one of those in real life) and didn’t get seriously injured. As we were going down the stats the controllers said “Your group did kill three non-combatants. Let’s see here….”. At this point he punched a few keys on his keyboard and said “Oh…who was Alpha 1?” I raised my hand sheepishly knowing what was coming. “Ah…looks like you killed all three civilians. Let’s take a look.”
This is when he introduced another feature of this system. The ability to replay parts of the game and view them from any angle. It was quite strange to see the guy I was ‘playing’ walk up behind the civilian, raise the rifle and shoot the other guy from a range of about 6 inches. It did get quite a reaction from my fellow soldiers however. Between that incident and another, similar one, there were plenty of hoots and hollers. Someone suggested that my nickname should now be ‘executioner’ and one guy said “It’s always the guys you least suspect.”
I’m not sure if there’s some sort of message you should take from all this but it was a pretty fun way to spend a couple of hours.