By Heath Hamacher, The Fort Jackson LeaderJune 28, 2007
In an effort to increase training effectiveness and reach a new generation of Soldiers, the U.S. Army 187th Ordnance Battalion Wheel Vehicle Mechanic School at Fort Jackson has employed an innovative training method.
The traditional means of teaching Army mechanics using PowerPoint and two-dimensional images is being replaced at the school with NGRAIN technology - three-dimensional simulations of a vehicle and its components.
"This is the path to go down right now. These young Soldiers are real computer savvy," said Chief Warrant Officer Harvey Jackson, school director. "This is teaching them the way they grew up; with XBox and computerized things. This gives them a whole new dimension of thinking, and they get it."
In 2006, it was determined that Army mechanics were missing a common procedure on the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle geared hub spindle, resulting in an increased risk of losing the wheel during operation of the vehicle.
Jackson decided that to remedy this oversight, he would follow the lead of the Engineering School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and integrate the same technology into the curriculum at his school.
He said the software and 3-D images allow his instructors to show an entire classroom of Soldiers -- step by step -- how to completely break down and reassemble a HMMWV by giving them virtual hands-on training before they ever touch the real thing.
"We can take a part, for instance, put it on the screen and magnify it, flip it around any way the students want to see it to help them understand," Jackson said. "Eighty percent of this class is still hands-on, but this gives them a visual and mental picture to let them say 'hey, I know where that's located' before they actually get the hands to metal."
Three Military Occupational Specialties -- 63B, 63W and 63S -- were consolidated about four years ago, Jackson said, and this new technology is yet another way to "keep moving forward" and ensure that the troops on the front line have the equipment they need.
He is happy about the strides made, but said there are always methods to improve training.
"We are no longer mechanics, we're maintainers," Jackson said. "The technology is new, and this is a totally new way of training. We've done a lot, but we're not there yet."