NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria — “We’ve got Morelli down and enemy on the perimeter,” Pfc. Leilani Silo shouted into the radio phone on her shoulder.
“I think I’m dead,” said Capt. Shane Morelli said into a speaker attached to his regular gear.
After a roadside bomb hit Morelli’s five-car convoy, members of the 18th Engineer Brigade’s Headquarters, Headquarters Company and the 44th Signal Company dodged bullets.
Sergeants barked orders urging their soldiers to maintain 360-degree security.
The incident was part of a convoy situational training exercise at Bulwark ’04. While Morelli was really unharmed, the soldiers took the training very seriously. Their fellow troops downrange are experiencing — and dying from — makeshift bomb attacks every day.
The speaker Morelli was wearing is part of a Deployable Instrumental Systems in Europe vest, or DISE, a Global Positioning System device that tracks soldiers, weaponry and vehicles during training.
Currently, 3,093 soldiers, 1,256 vehicles and more than 450 tanks, rocket systems and helicopters have used DISE, said Capt. Chris Ellis, operations officer for the 7th Army Training Command’s out-of-sector training branch.
The DISE system has been used in Operation Enduring Freedom predeployment training for the 1st Armored and 1st Infantry divisions. Troops from Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic and, now, Bulgaria have incorporated DISE into their training.
The system helps make training more realistic with audio cues that come from the vest’s speaker to tell a soldier if he or she has been injured and how badly, Ellis said.
In addition to the vest, a soldier wears a band with sensors around the helmet. A laser transmitter is mounted on each weapon to record the soldier’s location and firing.
If a soldier is killed or has a severe injury that would prevent him from firing a weapon in a real war, the system records this and renders the weapon inoperable.
“Now, if his buddy were to pick up that weapon, the system would recognize that somebody else is firing that weapon and would begin to fire again,” Ellis said.
“It’s similar to a Lazer Tag setup,” said Sgt. 1st Class William Benda, 7th ATC observer/controller.
The recorded information is linked to a satellite and sent to antennae at the training area. The antennae transmit the information to the brains behind the operation — the command-and-control console.
“We’ve got five communication antennae out there and are instrumenting three different training exercises simultaneously,” said Les Mitchell, marketing manager for Saab, the manufacturer of DISE.
After the series of scenarios has ceased hours later, the dog-faced soldiers regrouped with observer/controllers and commanders for an after-action review, complete with instant replay highlighting the action of the day.
The soldiers seem to like the system.
“I’ve learned a lot,” said Spc. Michael Southworth, an infantryman with Company A, 130th Infantry Regiment of the Illinois National Guard. “Doing training like this for the past five days has definitely made me more confident.”
Southworth said the training has made the whole unit better.
“I saw vast improvement from day one to day five,” he said. “After this training, if I was to go [to Iraq], I’d definitely be more confident of myself and my comrades.”
But the training does not stop there. The 7th ATC provides each unit with a compact disc of the entire exercise to re-examine months down the line.