"Wear clothes that can get dusty... MREs for you to eat, water and Gatorade, that's it... Cameraman will be 'embedded' with the unit...You're going to get dressed up as an Iraqi woman and go through it first... "
These are some of my notes from my first conversation with the director of the Marines' Infantry Immersion Trainer at Camp Pendleton in California. After reading several stories about this multi-million dollar "mixed reality" training environment, we were curious. After my conversation with Tom, the trainer's director, we were really curious. Tom explained that to capture this new form of close-combat training, we'd have to become a part of the simulation ourselves. This way, not only would we avoid distracting the marines from their exercises, but we'd fully immerse in the experience and therefore better understand what the training is aiming to accomplish. None of us had worked on a shoot before that demanded getting in costume and becoming a part of the scene, so this definitely prompted a lot of excited speculation on our part in the weeks leading up to our Pendleton trip.
In early February, we donned sunscreen and sturdy boots and headed out to Pendleton to spend a day at the trainer. The marines we met were eager, cheerful and more than happy to share their thoughts on this new form of training. The unit is headed to Iraq or Afghanistan sometime this year - we don't yet know which - and they all seemed grateful to have immersion training under their belts, as this will be the first tour to a combat zone for many of them. We're planning on keeping in touch with some of the marines we met once they deploy, and we'll update the site with news from them as it comes in.
We cut the footage we shot with the marines, and it's up now as one of our feature stories. Behind the scenes, we did indeed get suited up in costume that day. Here's a video we put together to give you a taste of what the shoot was like for us.