By Lt. Col. Sue Henderson, 2-399 Regt., 1st Bde., 104th Training Division (LT)August 13, 2013
FORT KNOX, Ky. - Twelve members of the Headquarters, 2-399 Regt., 1st Bde., 104th Training Division (LT), located at Fort Knox, Ky., took advantage of a rare and unique opportunity to train the headquarter element on a variety of command, control and communication skills using a cutting edge technology called the Dismounted Soldier Training System (DSTS). The purpose of the training was threefold. The battalion commander wanted to provide an event for the staff that tested their ability to work together as a team, communicate effectively to complete a mission, and use the military decision making process to lead a team through a virtual tactical environment.
The DSTS is the first ever fully immersive virtual simulation training for U.S. Soldiers. It provides the dismounted Soldier with the ability to engage point, or area targets, with a doctrinally assigned weapon and move as part of a squad.
The battalion staff element was suited up with:
• A helmet-mounted display (HMD) that attached to Soldier's helmet including headphones and a microphone for voice and radio communications.
• Computer backpack for processing and display of the 3D virtual environment.
• Sensors for tracking body positions.
• Instrumented weapons with optics, sights, and scopes.
The battalion staff used their bodies to perform complex motion maneuvers, such as leaning around or under an obstacle by physically mimicking those actions, or to communicate with others. Their natural movements were translated and used to control their "Avatar" within the simulation.
The battalion commander and command sergeant major were able to give orders, provide intelligence, issue FRAGOs via radio while controlling the virtual environment using a computer control panel. The staff completed an obstacle course in the virtual environment as an "Avatar", engaged targets on a 200 meter range, cleared a three story building, engaged enemy combatants, and assaulted an enemy compound. "This type of training environment was ideal for giving our junior members a chance to lead in a low threat learning environment", commented Capt. Billy Hyatt, the battalion S3. Spc. Joshua Sickafoos and Spc. Fawn Cruz, both with experience 'gaming', were assigned to the squad leader roles, allowing them to learn and gain confidence in a leadership role.
"I couldn't have been happier with the outcome of this training event", stated Lt. Col. Sue Henderson, battalion commander of the 2-399 Regt. "The staff already worked well as a team, but throwing them into a virtual training environment, with all of the chaos that comes with it, showed their ability to communicate, adapt, and improvise when things didn't go as planned".
The DSTS was an ideal method for a battalion commander to exercise and evaluate his/her staff on a key METL task (command and control), while simultaneously practicing individual Soldier skills and movement techniques in a resource constrained environment.