The Army of 2020 will be smaller, but whatever its size, the service chief says readiness is non-negotiable and that force must be highly trained, a Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) officer said.

Training now is "based on the complexity of the operational environment," said Col. Robert "Pat" White, deputy commander of the Combined Arms Center-Training (CAC-T), in a Feb. 22 roundtable from the AUSA Winter Symposium in Fla.

The service has to replicate the complex, uncertain, ambiguous and volatile environment and lessons learned the Army has dealt with over the past decade, to keep young leaders and soldiers engaged and wanting to remain part of the service, he said.

What's missing is the whiz and snap of live bullets and crump of real mortars.

The Army's new training in immersive environments where they are stationed is going "to become central to maintaining and improving our readiness," said Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, TRADOC deputy commanding general, Futures and director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, during a separate roundtable.

In March, a new Decisive Action Training Environment will be run at the National Training Center, Calif., that will use live, virtual and constructive environments and gaming. This is the first training held against a hybrid threat--the mix of unconventional and conventional threats that most agree will be the major threat in coming years. A decade of NTC iterations have focused on counter-insurgency oriented toward conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We'll do two or three of these (DATE) a year, depending on the demand cycle," White said.

TRADOC's "Training Brain," based in Norfolk, Va., provides what White called the "digital dirt," the data bases that can recreate areas of the world that commanders can pull down for the DATE scenarios, or home station training.

The Immersive Training Environment can replicate at a soldier's home station all the things captains and battalion commanders have in the field today, White said. For example, they can ask for and receive support from unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or from fixed or rotary wing aircraft, and this can be replicated in the training environment.

For example, at Ft. Hood, Texas, there's not enough maneuver space or live fire ranges to take the entire battalion, but the commander can put a battalion on a firing range, and one on maneuver area.

This system rolls out this summer, with plans to link all training domains in some form or capacity, he said.

White also is working on training in school houses, so soldiers who have been learning their skills in high-tech training situations aren't sent to school where they sit around and watch PowerPoint slides go up on the wall. "We'll lose them," White said.

Col. Miciotto Johnson, the TRADOC Capability Manager-Virtual, works to coordinate requirements with the various centers of excellence to ensure soldiers are able to be fully immersed in the training environment. In other words, the virtual tank has the "proper form, fit and function" and works like a real one in the immersive environment.

In other training environments, a soldier uses his own weapon.

The long term training goal is to use live virtual, constructive, and gaming technology to add to the complexity of the environment where leaders would have to leverage critical and creative thinking skills, White said.

With limited resources, trainers have to be able to place their training enablers where they are needed the most, and set priorities. "What matters most to us--CAC-T--is that the field force tells us what is most important," White said. Topping the list is integrated training environment.

Johnson said while the Army isn't trying to replicate something like the World of Warcraft game, "we are attempting to create a world, "Edge," to link soldiers and leaders in a training environment.

This would allow soldiers or leaders to learn at their own pace, 24/7, Johnson said. The system is in a pilot phase right now at Ft. Benning, Ga.

Johnson said they'd like to have a gaming solution that could truly immerse soldiers, and are looking at virtual avatars. In some cases the tech is there, in other cases it's not. It's not simple to do when you have to have a virtual exchange with another intelligent avatar. It''s much simpler in games when there are non-verbal engagements. "We're not there yet," he said.

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Page last updated Tue February 28th, 2012 at 00:00