FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- For the first time, Soldiers at multiple posts can train together in helicopter and ground combat vehicle simulators.The computer and software innovations that added the new capability also allow Army commanders to use their tactical communication systems in training just as they would in combat. These new training capabilities were successfully tested by the 3rd Infantry Division in March at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Air Field, Ga. The test event also involved Soldiers in simulators at Fort Rucker, Ala., and subject matter experts at Fort Campbell, Ky.Maj. Gen. Mark J. O'Neil, deputy commanding general of the Combined Arms Center -- Training (CAC-T), accredited the training capabilities for the force's use. "These improvements will help commanders create tough, realistic training exercises," O'Neil said.Maj. Gen. Jim Rainey, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said Army posts will benefit from the training capability."This system gives us the ability to enhance home station training while working with units across the country," Rainey said. "Access to an innovative resource like this helps increase readiness, and improves our ability to collaborate and train in a realistic combined arms environment."To verify the innovative technology, the first use assessment involved several training sites: •Soldiers at Fort Stewart used the Close Combat Tactical Trainer, a ground vehicle simulator; Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3), an Army gaming program, and the Homestation Instrumentation Training System (HITS), a ground forces training system. Subject matter experts used a constructive simulation program.•Soldiers at Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Rucker were in the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer, a helicopter simulator.•Subject matter experts at Fort Campbell used VBS3 and the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer, a ground vehicle simulator.Although the participants used different training systems at different locations, all shared the same live and virtual terrain environment and interacted as is if they were at one location. To the exercise commander, all of the action appeared to be live at Fort Stewart.Multi-post capabilityLt. Col. Patrick Chavez, director of the TRADOC Project Office -- Integrating Architecture (TPO-IA), supervised the test and explained the significance of the development."For the first time, the Army has been able to conduct this type of multi-post, combined-arms training on this scale," he said. "It opens the door to other posts working together. For example, the light infantry task force at Fort Benning could use a games for training suite to connect with an exercise at Fort Stewart."Capt. Mitchell Hockenbury, who also observed the test, said the capability will help the Army in putting together a modular force."A battalion from Fort Stewart could train with a battalion from Joint Base Lewis-McCord without going to a Combat Training Center," said Hockenbury who is with the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), Orlando, Fla.At Fort Stewart, the Army tested enhancements to improve training that links live, virtual, gaming and constructive systems to form the Integrated Training Environment. In these exercises, some Soldiers are in the field in HITS gear, others are in air and ground simulators, and some others use computers.What ties all of these Soldiers together is the computer software and hardware in the Live, Virtual, Constructive -- Integrating Architecture (LVC-IA) system. The LVC-IA collects the simulator and simulation data and combines it with the commander's mission command system to form a single common operating picture.Since 2012, the Army has fielded an initial version of the LVC-IA to a dozen posts. For network security reasons, the simulation and exercise data were not connected to a unit's tactical network. During exercises, this closed network required units to use additional equipment and work arounds. New open systemThe enhancements tested at Fort Stewart opened the network to allow simulation data and the various simulators to seamlessly connect to the unit's tactical network. Now battalion and brigade commanders have a complete common operation picture to make decisions and execute mission command.With the improvements, commanders can use the Warfighter Information Network Tactical (WIN-T) and their mission command systems just as they would in combat. WIN-T is the Army's common tactical communications network."The open network supports the train-as-you-fight objective commanders strive for with command post exercises," said Chavez. "It also provides the ability to add levels of complexity to home station training events with a variety of simulations and simulators."From fiscal years 2016-2018, the Army plans to upgrade the LVC-IA systems. These are the initial posts to receive the improvements: Fort Campbell, Ky., in June; Fort Bragg, N.C., in October; Fort Riley, Kan., in January 2017, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., in March 2017.TPO-IA is a subordinate organization of CAC-T, Fort Leavenworth. CAC-T develops training requirements, fields training systems, delivers leader training and sustains training capabilities to help Army units successfully execute their missions.Its web site is http://usacac.army.mil/organizations/cact/ and its Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/usacactraining. Its Twitter handle is: ‏@usacactrainingPEO STRI develops, acquires and sustains simulation, training, testing and modeling solutions to achieve Army readiness. Its web site is: http://www.peostri.army.mil/ Its Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/PEOSTRI.