By Anna Ciccotti (IMCOM)March 24, 2016
VICENZA, Italy (March 24, 2016) -- The golden hue of the sunset shines upon pine-filled fields. Four Humvees slowly roll down a placid Bavarian country road, leaving a trail of dust behind. Sitting behind the steering wheel in the lead vehicle is a young private on his first exercise in Germany. A sergeant occupies the seat next to him. The convoy trolls along at about five mph, scanning the roadside and surrounding fields for anything suspicious. It looks like a routine patrol exercise, nothing out of the ordinary. Then, all of a sudden, there is an explosion; one vehicle is damaged and the other three are forced to stop. This is when all begins.
This is one possible scenario that Vicenza-based Soldiers might face while honing their convoy live-fire skills in the realistic environment of the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer, or RVTT, that was positioned at Caserma Del Din from March 7 to March 25.
"This is an initial step in training (whereby) Soldiers can conduct repetitively in the simulator before advancing to live training," said James V. Matheson, chief, Regional Training Support Division South.
According to Matheson, Soldiers assigned to heavy weapons' companies in infantry battalions and Soldiers in brigade support battalions are the ones who benefit the most from training in the RVTT. This is because the simulator can be configured to replicate the vehicles assigned to those units.
"The RVTT system consists of a series of trailers equipped with four life-sized replica Humvees surrounded by floor-to ceiling, 360-degree movie screens," said Brunell Caudill, RVTT principal training and development specialist. "The suite provides an immersive virtual environment that can accommodate approximately 20 trainees per 90 minutes, training simultaneously on the same scenario," he said.
The vehicles have the look and feel of real vehicles, including all seats, driver controls, radio and turret ring mount. "The system database allows testing units on different terrains, to include Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, many installations in the U.S. and Korea. Lighting and weather conditions can also be adjusted to add to the threat," Caudill said.
"This training is very helpful and useful, and the scenario is very realistic, especially the way the trucks go down, the explosions and the firefight," said Sgt. Angel Santiago, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, who was the lead vehicle gunner for the exercise.
"I deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, and I do remember one mission where I was the gunner. The scenario that was presented to us today made me feel the same way as I did when downrange, with the tension that one may have in a mission. I think this will help out in lots of ways," Santiago said.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade was the first unit to use the simulated convoy training to prepare for an exercise in Germany.
"Normally, this simulator is based in Grafenwoehr, so the opportunity to have it in Vicenza for a few weeks eliminates the need to travel 800 km north of Vicenza to use the trainer. This is the first time we have had a convoy simulator here in the last couple of years so it is an infrequent training opportunity," Matheson said, emphasizing that during these tough economic times, the RVTT provides a cost-effective option to units who want more training for the buck.
"If a unit knows their mission when they are deploying, we can create that mission and the unit can practice the mission before deploying," Caudill said. For this session, it was the 173rd that chose the Bavarian database to prepare units for an upcoming major exercise in Hohenfels.
"We train Soldiers on how to use communications equipment both audio and digital, small-arms weapons familiarization. If a unit knows they are going to be conducting a convoy, live-fire range in the Grafenwoehr training area, we can build that exact range in the RVTT and the unit can practice that range several times in a day versus real dry runs of maybe two a day. This reduces the risk assessments of the range and improves the performance of the unit on the live fire range," said Caudill.
Combat multipliers -- for example close-air support, explosions or medical evacuations-- can be programmed to add realism and threats into the exercise.
"Any training a unit conducts at home station or at any of the training areas can be conducted in the RVTT, saving the units lots of time, resources and money," said Caudill. "In my mind and heart, I know we have saved Soldiers' lives because of this training."