VIRGINIA BEACH For 58 years, the Navy has used a gymnasium-sized demonstrator to prepare future Marine Corps, Naval officers and enlisted personnel how to plan for and execute amphibious assaults.

But, in an era of computer-driven modeling and simulation, and with today's sailors proficient in electronic gaming, the decision was made to retire the 1955-vintage Amphibious Assault Trainer at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in favor of more modern-day, animation based electronics.

Thursday was the final day for the vintage machinery.

Under the old system, dozens upon dozens of animatronic ships, helicopters and airplanes were pre-set alongside a mock beach representing the fictional nation of Amberland, which had supposedly come under attack from an aggressor force, and had sought help from the United States government.

The fake assault was called 'Operation Brewing Strom' and supposedly involved more than 14,000 Marines and sailors arriving on a shore designed to replicate the Western coast of Italy.

Using guide-wires, the assets were remotely moved around, complete with exploding sound effects, all to teach sailors and Marines what an actual amphibious assault in combat is like.

But the 50-foot by 70-foot trainer is very labor intensive and requires 45 minutes to one hour of set-up and programming before a 10-minute assault can be launched.

Local leaders said it was a sad day Wednesday, but they completely understand that it's time to make way for the future.

'It's absolutely a throwback,' said LCDR Curt Young, director of synthetic training. 'Progress is progress, and there are different ways to show that and sometimes more effective ways to do it. And that's what we're hoping to do for young Marines and sailors in the future.'

Col. Robert Curtis, commanding officer of Expeditionary Warfare Group Atlantic added, 'And with fiscal restraints, you're always trying to do things more efficiently and it's expensive to keep and entire building like this going for a demonstration when you can put it on a screen for one fixed cost and that's it, and it also becomes transportable.'

The Navy plans to convert the theater-like building into the new home for the School of Music for Navy, Army and Marine Corps musicians.

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