Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tank Simulator

Did my title capture your interest?
I sure hope it did!
Tanks are magnificent, giant, powerful, and deadly machines!
I imagine you would feel so 'big' driving one of these things for the first time.

Yesterday we had another work team building event which I though would be lame and boring, but turned out to be very insightful and fun.

We went to an actual Army tank simulator!
In fact, we went to the same place where soon to be tankers in the Army go to practice.
I even learned they practice with the simulators for 3 8-hour days before moving onto real tanks.

Before arriving and even after arriving I knew I would not be trying this out. I easily get car sick and ALWAYS get motion sick on virtual motions rides at theme parks and I didn't want to embarrass myself by having that happen. I figured it would be best to just watch my co-workers.
(This is what the machine kind of looked like. I found this picture online - not many options to choose from. Wish I had thought to bring my camera.... I bet you probably weren't allowed to take pictures though.)

When we first got there they warmed up 4 machines and broke us up into groups of 3. In my group T went first while me and L watched. It was very interesting just watching the machine move and our simulator guide guy showed us all the screens and the different obstacles he could dish out such as snow, rain, sand, different times of the day/night, traffic, gun fire, etc. The machine is suppose to show the trainees what is will be like while in an actual tank and they are to learn how to adapt and what to do in each situation. Evidently there are different levels they must master to graduate the course.

After awhile T finished up and a few of the soldiers who were around along with T asked me if I wanted to try it out. I kept saying no at first - then gave in.

I figured I might as well try it out because who knows when and if the opportunity would ever arise again. I didn't want to regret nor trying it when I had the chance right there in front of me. Besides, not everyone can say they have done this before. Nice conversation starter too don't you think?

Nervously, I climbed up the 3 stairs to get to the machine.
To get in the machine I held a bar above the opening, placed my feet where my head would eventually be, and slowly walked/pulled myself inside. Once I were mostly in, I then held onto a bar in front of me to fully make myself seated. At this point you are laying something like this:
Imagine you are in a seat though and your head is at the opening where you came into the machine.

Now I had to move a lever towards my leg and push it back until it locked into place which brought me to an upright position. After placing on my helmet with microphone in it and being told what the buttons did, I was all set to go.

This whole process only took a few minutes. I was a bit amazed at how easy it was. I pictured it being a bit harder. The simulator guide guy told me this is how the tank driver would get into a real tank. The inside of the simulator is also the size of the chamber the tanker would be in as well.
Just being at this point in my experience of the tank gave me an all new respect for tankers.
It is NOT as easy as one would think. A tanker CANNOT be claustrophobic!

Since I knew there was a good chance I would get sick, I asked the simulator guy to give me an easy terrain to practice on. I had seen how much the simulator moved when T did it and I didn't want it to move as much for me.
After driving on the road and on the grass for what seemed a few minutes, I got daring and went over hills and sand pits since 'T' dared me to (he had a headset on and I could hear him as well).
I was told the simulator moved a lot during this. While in the machine it didn't seem like it had moved very much.
I'm not sure how long I was in the machine, probably about 5 minutes or so, when I started to feel hot and a bit ill.
I asked to be done and sure enough he stopped the machine so I could get out.
I thought getting out would be hard, but was feeling to queasey to care. I just wanted out!

Per the guy, I moved the lever back to where it was when I first got in the machine which brought me back to the laying down while sitting position. I then had to hold onto the metal bar above and behind me to pull myself out. I have NO upper body strength, but was somehow able to easily pull myself out. I was even able to walk down the three stairs and get myself to a chair.

I am very proud of myself for trying the machine!
I can now cross it off my list of things to do before I die list.
I don't actually have a list of things to do before I die - maybe I should make one.

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