By Mrs. Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)October 17, 2013
The building is so new that the sign is still blank -- but more than 17,000 troops have already been through the facility.
The Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Digital Training Facility, Bldg. 3205, is located in the northeast corner of the MSCOE complex parking lot at Fort Leonard Wood, and is designed to provide state of the art instruction focused on the Army's common digital communication systems, gaming platforms and constructive simulation exercises.
"We train through the use of computer simulations. It's cost effective and safer for the Soldiers to train this way," said David Pape, G3 Training Instruction Branch Modeling and Simulations Integration chief.
The 62,000 square foot DTF provides the MSCoE G3 Training Directorate with a stand-alone facility that focuses entirely on the use of digital systems designed to educate and train the force for the current operational environment with the capability of adapting new technologies as they arise.
"This is a college environment to some extent. It's a higher level of learning. We train on more than just tactics and equipment. We prepare the troops for mission analysis and course of action development," Pape said.
The facility is designed to support Fort Leonard Wood's Institutional training requirements, as well as support the U.S. Army Forces Command operational requirements.
The DTF fully supports the Army's decision to use digital platforms for the training and education of both its Institutional (TRADOC) and Operational (FORSCOM) forces.
"All centers of excellence have some type of simulation and digital instruction, but in my opinion, this is the nicest facility I have seen throughout TRADOC," Pape said.
The MSCoE DTF provides Mission Command instruction on common digital communication systems.
"The Tactical Operations Center is like the brain-center of the battlefield. The Tactical Operations Center controls all of the information flow to and from individuals in the field," Pape said. "These are complicated pieces of equipment. The more hands on experience they receive here, the more proficient they are going to be when they return to the operational force."
The DTF will also support and integrate unique applications such as the Joint Warning and Reporting Network to support the education of students attending the United States Army Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear School.
The gaming instruction is designed to achieve a learning objective based on the needs of the Soldier student. The game selected is either designed for the individual learner or the collective group and in some instances may progress from the individual learner to a group activity.
"We imbed gaming and simulations within the DTF to facilitate the learning that occurs in the TOC. You have to have units in the field. We can portray, through gaming, troops in the field -- Soldiers, platoons or even company level units," Pape said.
Constructive Simulation exercises use current and future simulation capabilities with varying degrees of support requirements depending on the type simulation used to facilitate the required training.
"When they go to their units they will see this equipment in the vehicles and in the Tactical Operations Centers that they will be a part of," said Bob McFarland, G3 Training Instruction, Training and Education supervisor.
The MSCoE DTF is able to communicate with other DTFs across the country.
According to McFarland, about two weeks ago the Combined Arms Center School of Advanced Leadership and Tactics held a multi-branch staff exercise across TRADOC. Participating were Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Sill, Okla., Fort Rucker, Ala., Fort Leonard Wood, and other organizations across TRADOC.
"They had subject matter experts from each of the schools conduct problem solving and mission analysis while communicating via several platforms for the eight-day exercise. Fort Leavenworth, Kan., was the main TOC. They would push information down to the centers of excellence and each of those installations were able to provide analysis and feedback. That was the first time it has been done," McFarland said.
Prior to the opening of the new DTF this instruction occurred in the MSCoE G3 Battle Simulation Center on the third floor of Thurman Hall.
Planning for the facility began in 2001. In November 2012, the DTF was operating at full capability and all instruction formerly provided in Thurman Hall occurred in the DTF.
Pape said the new facility is available for all military units on post.
"We are more than willing to support anybody that wants support," Pape said.
(Editor's note: Bob McFarland contributed to this story.)