EDINBURGH, Ind. (Army News Service, Dec. 28, 2011) -- Provincial Reconstruction Team Kapisa, who is currently training at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan, was the first PRT to train on a new virtual reality combat simulator Dec. 16.
The simulator was designed specifically to help Soldiers better deal with the number one killer in the contemporary operating environment in Afghanistan: improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs.
The Counter-IED Collective and Individual Mounted Training Program put Soldiers in a simulated armored vehicle, then uses high definition video projected onto a giant screen surrounding the vehicle. Sound and percussion elements are used to add to the realism of the simulation.
The system is designed to replicate realistic conditions of mounted combat such as smoke, noise, poor visibility, confusion and physically jarring explosions; all within the confines of safety. The system puts Soldiers through realistic scenarios and physiological challenges to fully engage all the senses that affect their performance and decision-making skills on the battlefield.
"It was designed because there was nothing out there to safely simulate an IED blast for Soldiers," said Michael Laughead, observer/controller with R.L. Leaders, the company responsible for building the simulator.
But the simulator trains Soldiers on much more than just reacting to an IED threat. Soldiers also get to practice troop-leading procedures, night training, mobility kills, reporting unexploded ordinance, and medical evacuation reporting among other things.
"There's a lot being trained here, and the training device itself is really awe-inspiring to Soldiers, because they've never seen anything like it," said Laughead. "It gets them excited to train,
and that makes it so much easier to get them the information they need so they can be successful in combat."
Not only does the new simulator provide a realistic training environment, but it also gives a digital recording of the entire training scenario to units that they can immediately review on any computer so Soldiers can look at what they did right, what they did wrong, and how they can improve.
Lt. Col. Eric K. Shafa, commander of PRT Kapisa, is excited about being with the first PRT to have the opportunity to train with the new simulator.
"This simulator is more realistic than anything I've seen before," said Shafa. "These guys get in there, work together and actually run through scenarios where they are leaving the forward operating base and being able to communicate with each other while working on their situational awareness, that's really the most important thing."
"A lot of these guys have never been to Afghanistan and for them to see what the roads are like, what the scenarios are that they may encounter," Shafa added. "It helps prepare them for what they will see when they get down range so they already have in mind what it's going to be like."
Spc. Darren J. Ganier-Slotterbeck, a civil affairs specialist for PRT Kapisa, is no stranger to Afghanistan or IEDs. He was quick to vouch for how realistic the new simulator is.
"I deployed in 2005, 2007 and 2008 with the Marines. I've been blown up multiple times," said Ganier-Slotterbeck, "and it definitely brought back memories. I was a little shaky when I got out of that thing. I'm not going to lie."
According to Ganier-Slotterbeck, Soldiers like him benefit most from the experience offered by the new simulator by seeing such a realistic depiction of what to look for when trying to counter the IED threat. The simulator shows Soldiers what to look for in an environment that could only be more realistic by actually training in Afghanistan.
Ganier-Slotterbeck said he wishes the simulator was around before his prior deployments.
"If we'd had the ability to go through training like this at the time, those deployments would have been a lot different," said Ganier-Slotterbeck.
Since 2003, 1st Army East has been responsible for training Soldiers deploying through Camp Atterbury.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason S. Graning, trainer/mentor assigned to 1st Army East's 4th Cavalry Battalion, observed and validated PRT Kapisa as they went through the new simulator.
"This simulator is extremely cost effective because we can add all sorts of variables to scenarios that we would normally have to resource all sorts of equipment for," said Graning. "As far as the quality of the training, this the first time I've seen this system and I think it has to be one of the best simulators the Army has put out. It's just awesome."