News: 'Wire transferred' - 16th SB finance Soldiers train with virtual software tools
Story by 1st Lt. Henry Chan
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – The 16th Sustainment Brigade’s 106th Financial Management Support Unit received realistic virtual simulation training that showed their strengths and weaknesses in financial support and convoy operations July 17.
It was the first time the 7th Army’s Joint Multinational Simulations Center used virtual training simultaneously across multiple locations. Through the Virtual Battle Space 2 program, the JMSC staff was able to connect multiple sites for this training.
“With our ongoing military pay, disbursing missions and supporting (international missions), it is difficult spread between Baumholder, Kaiserslautern, Grafenwoehr and Vicenza,” said Maj. Scott Francis, 106th FMSU commander. “At any given time, 25 percent of (the 106th FMSU) is at one of the four spots in Germany or Italy.”
Deployed finance units typically operate in areas with a low financial support infrastructure. Few Soldiers will frequently travel by air or ground convoy to directly support an area of operations.
“Looking at an environment such as Iraq, you have a large battlespace and an organization that provides (financial) support to a designated area,” said Francis. “Units have to request support of finance, whether it is for Soldier care, making casual payments for Soldiers to purchase necessary items, processing pay entitlements. You still get out to those forward (bases) where they do not have those robust infrastructure like the larger bases.”
Francis specifically chose relatable scenarios that would challenge junior leadership with communications.
The unit was placed in a scenario to execute a string of simulated-finance missions code-named “Operation Fund” at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.
Each detachment dispatched tactical convoys in reality to the JMSC training areas to tie reality in with virtual training. It took less than an hour for the truck crews of finance Soldiers to learn how to control their virtual avatars in the computer network, and the JMSC crews began the simulated mission.
“It’s not very often that Soldiers of Bravo Detachment are able to train concurrently with their counterparts. This gave (us) an opportunity to fine tune (our) tactical communications and established (procedures), while being placed in a digitally geographic specific terrain location,” said Capt. Gina Burgett, B-Detachment 106th FMSU commander in Kaiserslautern.
The four detachments were required to work simultaneously, including funding multiple pay agents, executing casual pay operations, pay inquiries and interacting with local nationals.
The VBS2 is a desktop computer-based simulation program that resembles popular “first-person shooter” games but has all the functions and commands to help train Soldiers on field communications and tactics before field training.
“This is first time we’ve connected VBS2 between all four sites,” said Edward Rykard, Chief of Tactical Gaming at the JMSC. “We have a major integration effort going. We’re taking the VBS2 system and connecting it to other physical virtual systems.”
Rykard explains that other physical virtual systems, such as the Aviation Combined Armed Tactical Trainer or the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainers, are complex training systems with projections screens and laser simulation weapons.
As the first to use virtual training resources to close the geographical gap, the 106th FMSU’s training was “just one more milestone that we’re marking off in being able to connect all systems,” said Rykard.
“A commander is getting an opportunity to see all four of his locations operating together, and it’s basically not costing us anything,” said Rykard. “They are driving vehicles, and we’re not paying for fuel. They are engaging targets, and we’re not paying for any bullets.”
The 106th FMSU commanders ended the day’s exercise through video telecom conferences agreeing that they needed further training with their communications within the unit.
Since this exercise, the 106th FMSU has scheduled eight follow-up appointments with the JMSC staff to continue virtual training.