Synthetic battlefield provides soldiers with realistic training

3rd Sustainment Brigade
Story by Spc. Rochelle Prince-Krueger

Date: 12.05.2013
Posted: 12.05.2013 14:35
News ID: 117793
Synthetic battlefield provides soldiers with realistic training

EVANS ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga.- U.S. Army troops are always preparing for their next mission, whether it be for an upcoming field exercise or training to support combat operations. The 396th Transportation Company is no different, and the Fort Stewart, Ga., based unit is currently focused on teaching the “Hell on Wheels” company how to properly conduct convoy operations.

Approximately 20 Soldiers with the 396th Transportation Co., 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, received hands-on convoy training, Dec. 4. This convoy, however, didn’t require the Soldiers to physically traverse. Instead, they took to Evans Army Airfield to steer stationary vehicles through simulated mountainous terrain inside a virtual combat convoy tactical trainer.

The CCTT essentially uses computer-based systems and simulators that replicate military trucks like the high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle. The modified HMMWV is surrounded by 360-degree, full projection screens used to mimic a combat environment.

“This is an introductory course of convoy tactics for many of our new Soldiers,” said 2nd Lt. Adam Holton, a platoon leader for the 396th TC. “We use simulators to gain familiarization with the vehicles and weapon systems before we get them out on the road driving.”

After returning from supporting convoy operations in Afghanistan in May, the 396th Transportation Company has since received an influx of new Soldiers, some who transitioned from another unit and other Soldiers who are brand new to the Army.

“These simulators give newer Soldiers experience and allows them to think about the many possibilities when you’re in a convoy,” said Staff Sgt. Tim Bowden, 396th TC platoon sergeant. “You always need to stay honed on your skills, and training on these simulators is a great way that Soldiers can do that.”

Private Michael Poole, assigned to 396th TC, agrees.

“I got a lot of experience as to what could happen when I’m a gunner in a vehicle,” said Poole, a native of Newman, Ga., who has served in the Army for 10 months. “It’s important to gain knowledge and train because you can only get better.”

Bowden, an Atlanta, Ga., native, said the training also helped the junior noncommissioned officers gain experience as a truck commander. Convoy Commander Sgt. Dusty Gill was responsible for the load plan in each vehicle and charged with the task of understanding how to react in the event one vehicle came into contact with combat.

“(Building) the muscle memory of how to react is very important,” explained Gill, from Centre, Ala. “It needs to be second nature in order for someone to automatically react; this training allows us to work on that.”

After the Soldiers complete the training, the CCTT offers a play-back feature so that the Troops can assess their tactics and learn from any mistakes. Holton said once the Soldiers become well-rehearsed with the simulator, the next step is to practice on actual convoy lanes.

“We need to get our Soldiers prepared before we move on to a live-fire situation,” said Gill.