FORT POLK, La. — Unlike traditional training sites, the Berry Mission Training Complex at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk is still able to shine under the constraints of COVID-19. In fact, the BMTC is meant to be used by units otherwise unable to train in traditional settings.
“We’ve been a go-to spot for training throughout the pandemic because of the way we are able to accommodate Soldiers while adhering to mitigation guidelines,” said Stefan Lockton, BMTC senior trainer and training manager.
Part of the BMTC’s focus is to provide an alternate training area for units who are unable to utilize the training sites on the installation, like the rotational training “box.”
“JRTC and Fort Polk had 11 rotations last year, which created a constricted training environment for home units; so, even before COVID-19, the BMTC has been prepared to give Fort Polk Soldiers a place to get the training they need when going out to the box isn’t an option,” said Lockton.
Despite staying busy throughout the different lockdown phases, the full spectrum of BMTC services is not widely known.
"There’s a large range of trainings we offer, from the individual tasks that Soldiers do in the Army and need to practice because they’re perishable, to the collective tasks for battalion and brigade staffs, such as simulated warfighter exercises,” said Lockton.
“We even have a covered sand table in the back, which units can use. With the Louisiana rains, it’s nice to have a giant, protected sand table for practice. This tool would be great for staff or small unit training.”
Some of the training the BMTC offers includes the Joint Battle Command-Platform, Command Post of the Future, leadership classes, planning, staff planning, functions and the Military Decision-Making Process.
“We also have a Virtual Battlespace 3, which constitutes the simulation side of the BMTC. With the simulator, we can do just about anything — from the Emergent Leader Immersive Training Environment Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Command Team Trainer (ELITE SHARP CTT) to various battle drills,” said Lockton.
Scott Wetmore, games for training operator, is the man behind the versatile simulation programs at the BMTC.
“I run the games for training program here at the MTC, and it's basically a conglomeration of different software that's run on a normal personal computer. It is mostly based on commercial, off-the-shelf software that’s been adapted for military use. It’s a fully customizable, rapid-turnaround system that is cost effective. If Soldiers can’t get to the field, they can still train because it’s all virtual — it’s like playing Call of Duty," said Wetmore.
The VBS3 has multiple capabilities including advanced call-for-fire modules; ambience modules, which model the movements of civilians; avatar modules, allowing users to import certifications and personal performance data; and numerous Training Support Packages encompassing after action reviews, event guides, storylines and collective tasks, said Wetmore.
“I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now, so I have hundreds of scenarios prebuilt for the simulator. I can pull something up and quickly modify it for the unit based on the commander’s intent.”
“In the games for training community, Fort Polk is known because everything we do with the simulator is custom,” said Wetmore.
Although the BMTC provides a large array of trainings, Lockton said they are always pushing to develop and offer more.
“We’re still trying to grow some of our services, like our Leadership Matrix,” a new directed-discussion forum piloted at the facility on June 30.
"The Leadership Matrix forum is a series of discussions on leadership, built off a program developed Joint Base Lewis McChord. It can be utilized by junior Soldiers, leaders and senior leaders,” said Lockton.
The BMTC remains equipped to offer Fort Polk units a place to practice battle drills, develop leadership skills and even host video teleconferences. Before, during and after COVID-19, this Army MTC continues to overcome any hindrances to the training Soldiers need to stay combat ready.