Itâ€™s been compared to being inside a tumble dryer or a tombola drum, but going for a spin in the RODET teaches skills that are already saving lives.Â
If one of the British Armyâ€™s latest generation of armoured vehicles is struck by an improvised explosive device, or rolls over on difficult terrain, the soldiers inside need to know how to protect themselves and safely exit the vehicle.Â The Roll Over Drills Egress Trainer or RODET is an armoured hull, kitted out just like a real vehicle, which can be completely rotated to simulate a vehicle rolling and coming to rest upside down or on its side.
The RODET Picture: Sgt Alison Baskerville RLC. Crown Copyright/MOD 2011
Two RODET units are in use at Camp Bastion, and every soldier likely to go â€˜outside the wireâ€™ experiences the delights of going for a spin. According to Captain Dougie Douglas, the officer responsible for reception, staging and onward integration (RSOI) training at the huge base, the RODET is dramatically improving British soldiersâ€™ chances of surviving a vehicle incident without suffering serious injury: â€œItâ€™s the basic stuff â€“ wearing seat belts, stowing equipment securely and keeping the vehicle clean inside. Some people are just about double their normal weight with their body armour and combat equipment on. If the person opposite you gets thrown on top of you, or you get thrown out of your seat against the roof of the vehicle you could be severely injured. Seat belts save lives, even in a combat zone.â€
Equipment stowage is important, as items like boxes of ammunition can become projectiles inside a vehicle: â€œWe illustrate the point using foam rubber ammo boxesâ€, says Captain Douglas. â€œBeing hit in the face by a rubber ammo box is simply a bit annoying â€“ but if it was a real steel one, with 250 rounds of machine gun ammunition inside, that could be fatal.â€
Soldiers entering the RODET. Picture: Sgt Alison Baskerville RLC. Crown Copyright/MOD 2011
Each RODET session includes the vehicle coming to rest at different angles, with the occupants being told to exit through a different door each time. There are techniques to be learnt, such as getting out of a four-point safety harness, when hanging from what is now the roof â€“ without falling across the vehicle â€“ and extracting a wounded or unconscious casualty. Every move is watched by the operator, using a series of night vision cameras mounted inside the simulator.
A clean vehicle is a safe vehicle, even in the dusty wastes of Afghanistan, as RODET instructor Sergeant Andy Hale of the 9/12 Lancers points out: â€œAs soon as the hull turns over you can see all the dirt and gravel on the floor of the vehicle fly upwards. The same thing happens in an IED strike. The guys learn to keep their protective glasses on, even in the vehicle, but they still come out of the RODET with a face full of dust.â€
A British soldier learning how to exit from the RODET. Picture: Sgt Alison Baskerville RLC. Crown Copyright/MOD 2011
For Captain Douglas, the RODET is a life-saving investment that has already demonstrated its value: â€œSoon after we started the training we had a Mastiff vehicle roll over on an obstacle on the driver training course. Everyone rushed over, expecting the worst â€“ but the guys were just extracting themselves exactly as we teach them. Perfect.â€