News: Virtual battlefield simulations provide training for less money
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher McCullough
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – "Ammunition is expensive, fuel is expensive, maintenance and repair costs are expensive; all exceedingly expensive." Those were the words that Command Sgt. Maj. Sean Mayo, a native of Bridgeport, Conn., and command sergeant major for 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, used to describe live gunnery training.
He adds that while nothing can replicate actual hands-on training when it comes to gunnery, simulations software, such as the Virtual Battle Space 3, is an effective tool that helps hone valuable battlefield skills in a less costly environment.
"The big thing about combat vehicle crew operations is that everybody has got to operate like a fine tuned machine," Mayo said. "Everyone has to know their role, their actions, their responses to fire commands, and everyone has distinct responsibilities in the conduct of fire. VBS3 allows you to rehearse that without expending any money, ammo, fuel or wear and tear on your kit, so it's a very effective tool for that."
Military simulations have been around in some capacity, though virtual simulations, such as VBS3, are fairly new to the force. Likewise, the types of simulators are varied and many, though some of the more common ones Soldiers in the Army use today include:
-Dismounted Soldier Training Environments in which Soldiers stand on a four-foot diameter rubber pads and use their body to perform maneuvers, such as walking or throwing a hand grenades. Soldiers can not only see and hear their virtual environment, but they can also communicate with their team or squad using a helmet-mounted display with headphone/microphone set.
-Medical Simulation and Training Environments mimic virtually every major bodily function. Using MSTEs, medics can experience a range of events from physical examination to major trauma.
-Ground Platform Training Environments that replicate the critical features of a system to meet the training intent and the development of simulations can be embedded with current dismounted Soldier equipment, according to the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's website.
At the OCTC, Idaho, where 1-14 Cav. is engaged in opposing forces operations and gunnery training exercises, Dismounted Soldiers Training Environments, as well as VBS3, are available, which can help the squadron replicate the live training they would conduct in the field. That allows Soldiers to practice as they run a mission virtually before they conduct their training live.
"Simulations allow us to build and maintain full competency at the crew coordination level," Mayo explained." The first time we show up on the range shouldn't be the first time that a crew has worked together, has actually practiced conduct of fire, because then you're talking about the potential wasting of rounds. Simulations allow us to work through problems with crew coordination, or conduct of fire, prior to ever expending a bullet. "
Depending on the complexity, VBS3 administrators can build a campaign in hours to days depending on the particulars a unit is asking for, according to Boise native, Marshall Gibbs, the VBS3 training integrator for the State of Idaho.
"I can build in VBS3 that actually replicates the live training (they) would conduct out on the OCTC," Gibbs said. "Then the Soldiers can actually run that mission virtually in VBS3 before they conduct the training live."
So while the defense budget continues to shrink after thirteen years of war, simulations technology increasingly allows units such as 1-14 Cav. to continue to train while cutting back on fuel costs and reducing the wear and tear on its ground vehicles and personnel.