FORT STEWART, Ga. While most people view video games as a form of entertainment, field artilleryman with the Vanguard Brigade are using one virtual game system as a training tool.

A fully interactive, three-dimensional training system dubbed Virtual Battlespace 2 is helping Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery Regiment adjust to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team's new light-infantry mission and is keeping the 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers up to date with today's ever-changing battlefield.

Although these former heavy-armored Soldiers are used to training for combat in the field, the now light-infantry troops can also prepare for future missions in a classroom environment at Fort Stewart's Evans Army Airfield.

Robin Wheale, training lead for VBS2, said that the video-game type training doesn't replace field training, but it still provides Soldiers an effective means of preparing for the fight.

"This simulation training won't teach you to fire your weapon properly, but it will teach you proper weapon orientation, ammunition conservation, and those types of things," the Beaver Falls, Pa. native said, adding that the virtual training also teaches troops how to respond to ambushes, improvised explosive devices and other insurgent tactics.

"It's a lot cheaper to do a convoy mission here than to take real vehicles out," Wheale added.
In addition to cost efficiency, Wheale said training via VBS2 teaches troops the importance of teamwork.

"A big thing here is communication and to get (Soldiers) used to talking to each other and communicating with each other effectively without too much chatter but with enough information going across the net," he said. "It can get them used to working together as a team. (VBS2) is not the real thing, of course. I wouldn't by any means say it's going to replace real field training, but it can be used to lead up to real field training exercises."

Sergeant Dustin McKinney, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1/76 FA, agrees.

"I think this training helps put (Soldiers) in the right mindset for when we go out to the field and we start doing actual real world missions," the Indianapolis, Ind., native said. "(VBS2) gets you thinking about sectors of fire and other things you could encounter out in the field and obviously down range. It is a video game, but the communication can break down even in a video game, and if it breaks down here, it's definitely going to break down when you're out there doing the real thing. It definitely gets you thinking about what you need to be doing all the time."

Sergeant McKinney added that the training is helping his team transition out of a heavy armor mindset and into light-infantry mode.

"Obviously, we were heavy before and as a heavy unit, you use mostly up-armored vehicles," he said. "(Now) there's going to be a lot of footwork, a lot of boots on the ground, and (VBS2) will definitely get you trained up for that and thinking about what you need to be aware of when you're on your feet as opposed to sitting in a vehicle."