By 1st Lt. Awbrey LoweDecember 31, 2013
BAUMHOLDER, Germany -- Junior leaders from the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's 16th Sustainment Brigade are using tactical gaming technology, first developed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to get a crash-course refresher in land navigation techniques in order to better prepare them for that aspect of Warrior Leaders Course and the role of a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army.
The 16th Sust. Bde. originally developed its junior leaders course -- dubbed Knights University -- to enhance training at the unit level; but organization leaders have modified the program every year to keep its training -- and its Soldiers -- on the cutting edge.
Managing the systems which facilitate training, Chief of the Kaiserslautern Mission Training Complex Jeff Hodges of Fairfield, Ohio, explained that a wide variety of skills in addition to land navigation can be reviewed and put to the test -- at least in theory.
The virtual trainer is available for simulating combat casualty care, defeating improvised explosive devices and other warrior tasks and battle drills. The program echoes gaming technology originally used in the popular Army recruiting tool, "America's Army," which was designed to help familiarize prospective Soldiers with a vast amount of information about basic training before they signed up.
In the same way, virtual land navigation brings together a vast amount of information and practice while simulating and demonstrating the correct use of a compass and interpretation of information on a basic military map.
Each Solder receives real-time feedback from his or her individual actions onscreen while referencing hard-copy maps, compasses and protractors in the classroom. This prepares Soldiers to apply the skills on another day of Knights University on real terrain. In this way, the tactical virtual trainer technology enhances hands-on training
"Before I went to Knights University, I had a little knowledge of (land navigation) and was nervous about it. After the (virtual) course, it made it easier for me to find my points on the (outdoor) course," said Spc. Jason S. Sanchez of the 515th Transportation Company. "It improved my confidence and ability to perform my (land navigation) tasks."
The Albuquerque, N.M, native was very positive about the value the software added to his Knights University experience.
Instructors added that Soldier performance has been on an upswing since the addition of the virtual land navigation trainer. Records show a 100-percent success rate in the land navigation portion of WLC since the incorporation of the virtual program in August.
Perhaps there are other changes on the horizon for Knights University, as the program reflects changes to the Warrior Leader Course and the overall focus of training in the Army.