FORT BRAGG, N.C. - "Contact left!" "Contact right!" Vehicle approaching!"
Normally, these are phrases Soldiers hear during a training mission or while on a combat patrol in Afghanistan.

Now, that is all changing with the Virtual Battle Space 2 simulator.

Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade used the new VBS2 simulator to conduct battle rehearsals in preparation for their upcoming deployment, at the Battle Command Training Center, May 25.

"This training allows a unit to cognitively practice tactics, techniques and procedures, battle drills and conduct operations at the company team level using a semi-immersive virtual reality simulation which accurately models time and space," said Bill Banker, the live, virtual, and gaming senior analyst at the BCTC.

The VBS2 simulator is a training program loaded onto computer workstations. This allows units to work on their team tactics with relatively no logistical support a traditional field training exercise would require, Banker said.

With the simulator, a unit doesn't need fuel, ammo or range time to conduct realistic training, Banker said. All the unit needs with the VBS2 are computers and Soldiers who have gone through the week-long training provided at the BCTC to act as the "observer/controllers" so they can run the simulator system, he said.

With so few resources needed, the simulator has already been fielded to over 70 training locations throughout the Army, Banker said. However, 1st Sqdn., 38th Cav. Regt. will be the first unit to use the simulation while on deployment to assist them with conducting combat operations, he said.

During the deployment, the unit plans to use the simulator to help them train, plan and provide rehearsal abilities in support of combat operations.

"The VBS2 gives us the ability to learn the unit's standard operating procedures, so beforehand we can develop and change them," said Pfc. Jerimiah Cunningham, a gunner with 1st Sqdn., 38th Cav. Regt.

The simulator can also be used to familiarize new Soldiers and leaders to the unit's area of operation.
For example, buildings, roads and other semi-permanent structures are all mapped out according to their actual locations in real life, Banker said. This allows Soldiers to familiarize themselves with the area before arriving in the actual environment.
Additionally, the VBS2 gives the unit the ability to work as a team.

For instance, a gunner will ride in the turret position while a team leader is in the truck commander position, so that he is able to navigate the way he would in a combat environment, explained Banker.

Another realistic aspect the cavalry Soldiers experienced was improvised explosive devices, which included ambush scenarios.
"I enjoyed the VBS2 because we had to shoot, move and communicate with each other during the contact drills, just as we would in a real-life situation," said Pfc. Todd Mickens, also of 1st Sqdn., 38th Cav. Regt.

The 1st Sqdn., 38th Cav. Regt. is scheduled to leave for Afghanistan with the VBS2 this summer.
"Being able to make mistakes in the simulation and correct them before conducting an operation sure is better than making those mistakes for the first time in actual combat," said Banker.