Soldiers Use Virtual Technology to Prepare for Battlefield
As current and future enemies attempt to adapt to the Army's tactics, techniques and procedures down range, counteraction seems to be a critical aspect of the training mission stateside.
Soldiers training at Fort Riley have the advantage of one of the Army's first computer-based mission training complexes. The MTC is integrated with other training capabilities that form the digital training campus that opened in June 2009.
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The 160,000-square-foot Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold-certified building is just one of many resources at Fort Riley's Regional Training Campus -- a major facet in the new Forces Command Regional Collective Training Capability concept. Fort Riley was identified as an RCTC-host installation in July 2011, one of 27 in the Army, because of its centralized location and efficient training capabilities.
The MTC plays a vital role in the RCTC initiative because it provides an integrated training environment where skills are built with cutting-edge technology in support of the Army Digital Training Strategy -- all before a Soldier ever sets foot in the field.
"In this era of budget constraints, one of the key efficiencies in training is virtual, constructive and gaming training before doing it live," said Tim Livsey, director, Fort Riley's Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
It's efficient, Livsey said. Soldiers can use the MTC's many computers, individually or collectively, to set up simulations based on their unit's training needs. Simulations also can be linked to unit components in widespread locations for large scale training or can be limited to a squad or platoon.
On an individual level, the campus's Engagement Skills Trainer allows Soldiers to qualify with a weapon in an arcade-type system before actually going out on the range. This pre-training, or gated training strategy, allows Soldiers to build their skill sets on virtual trainers at a pittance of taxpayer dollars rather than the expense of training on the range with real bullets, Livsey said.
"It's efficient, saves money, saves time, and the Soldier enters the live-training phase at a higher level of training than if he entered at square zero," Livsey said.
On a collective level, Unified Endeavor 12-01, a three-week joint and combined command post exercise last January, allowed Soldiers with the 3rd Infantry, 1st Cavalry and 101st Airborne divisions; contractors, observers, trainers and senior mentors with the Mission Command Training Program, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; select leadership with the Afghan national security forces; Soldiers with the Polish and French Armies and Soldiers with V Corps in Germany to participate in the training event from remote locations in preparation for the "Big Red One's" Headquarters deployments to Afghanistan in 2012.
Active and Reserve components have used the MTC, as well as ROTC cadets, SWAT teams and other groups in the region, Livsey added.
"By leveraging this technology, you're not shooting as many bullets and burning as much fuel in the training area," said Bill Raymann, chief, Training Division, DPTMS.
And not only is the MTC efficient with time and taxpayer dollars, the training is the best in the Army, Livsey said.
Based on a unit's training needs, the MTC can:
- Provide contract and resource management
- Provide training for low-density Battle Command Systems with 22 separate classes
- Provide "train the trainer" assistance for new simulation equipment training, software version releases and contract instructor certification on Battle Command Systems
- Provide technical subject matter experts relating to simulations, training infrastructure or Battle Command Systems training
- Coordinate for and provide additional personnel to support training and exercise events
- Perform configuration management for software and integrate equipment and systems in classrooms, work cells and other activities
- Coordinate for the maintenance of simulation and hardware
- Provide representation at the program management review and training-related venues
- Provide gaming and convoy training at map sites at Fort Riley; the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.; Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La.; Korea, Iraq and Germany
- Provide staff training at company, battalion, brigade and division levels.
All of the MTC's facilities are linked by an internal local area network and are re-configurable to support a multitude of multi-echelon training scenarios, said Randall Curry, chief, MTC.
Using the Gaming Lab's Virtual Battle Space 2 program, the Army's approved off-the-shelf training game, MTC staff can replicate every vehicle and aircraft in NATO's inventory, versus buying separate simulations.
"Just about anything you can imagine, we can do in here. It's constantly evolving," Curry said.
Curry and his staff set the training conditions to be as specific and realistic as possible to try to replicate the environment Soldiers will face during deployment, he said.
"Because it's a game, you can make it do whatever you want. You can load in your personal statistics, your (physical training) test, marksmanship skills -- and your avatar in the game will react like you do," Curry said.
Using this technology is so effective, Curry said, because young Soldiers already love gaming; they do it daily.
"It's like Soldier Disneyland," Livsey said. "We have a great suite of live-training capability currently on Fort Riley. We have state-of-the-art, best in the Army, virtual training capability. We are cutting edge right now."
Along with the Warrior Skills Trainer, the Virtual Battle Space 2 serves as the primary convoy and improvised explosive device trainer, said Anthony Dokes, digital system integration manager, MTC.
Another virtual training program Soldiers can use is the Intelligence Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer, or IEW-TPT. Before a deployment, Soldiers must learn cultural awareness and be prepared to communicate with an interpreter. These skills can be vital to the mission.
With the IEW-TPT, Soldiers learn how to ask the interpreter good questions so they can gather information from community leaders and take it back to the convoy to complete a mission, Curry said.
The MTC also has reconfigurable classroom space, up to seven rooms, to teach all the different battle command systems utilized by commanders and their staff to create an up-to-date common operating picture of the battlefield, Dokes said.
The Unit Command Post of the Future Trainer, Fixed-Reconfigurable Vehicle Simulator and Reconfigurable Tactical Operations Center also are facets of the MTC that units can tap into to fulfill their training needs.
The MTC has many components, but what they have in common is they all allow for multi-echelon training, Livsey said.
Training at the MTC is enhanced because units can multitask by training Soldiers working on different levels on the same scenario at the same time frame.
A Soldier can stair step his training by working on an individual skill set, then mix with others in a crew-training device, eventually building toward a company-sized element, while commanders simultaneously move units and monitor the battlefield.
This Blended Integrated Training Environment concept allows Soldiers to "see" each other through tactical systems and work together for the same purpose, while saving the Army time and money in the process, Raymann said.
"They are achieving training objectives just the way they would be operating out in the field … where it would take you all day to do one live-fire iteration, you could go through it eight times (during the same time period) at the MTC," he said.
The MTC is used to not only train Fort Riley Soldiers, Livsey said, but it also is truly a Regional Collective Training Capability for the Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational partners in the region.
By Pamela Redford, Fort Riley Public Affairs
Source : US Army