U.S. Army Pacific received the Army's most realistic and versatile virtual training system for combat route clearance, the Virtual Clearance Training Suite, this month. The suite was installed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and is available to train Soldiers prior to a deployment.

The suite was officially open for business Nov. 8.USARPAC Deputy Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Roger Mathews was given a tour of the suite following a ribbon-cutting ceremony to view its capabilities. The system will be integrated into the USARPAC training schedule.

The VT CS is comprised of four mobile trailers, each featuring different virtual training options. The first trailer is set up as an operator's station where unit leaders can develop specific virtual training missions, control all aspects of each mission and monitor Soldiers as they train.

"Leaders can choose any kind of scenario for their Soldiers to go through," said Sgt. 1st Class Jawn Downing, lead action officer for the VTCS. "They can choose the landscape, what the weather will be like, and so on. They can not only choose to have their Soldiers encounter an Improvised Explosive Device, but also receive small arms fire or experience equipment failures. We can simulate anything that has the probability of occurring in combat."

The second trailer features several stations which simulate a Buffalo, a six-wheeled mine protected clearance vehicle with a 30-foot robotic arm and iron claw for ordinance disposal and route clearance. The "drivers" are surrounded on each side of the Buffalo cab by large screens which display their surroundings, and Soldiers react to what they view on the screens.

The third and fourth trailers are identical, each featuring the cab of an RG-31, an armored mine protected personnel carrier vehicle, and a .50 Caliber simulated machine gun. The RG-31 cabs also have screens surrounding the driver and passenger. Soldiers manning the gunner's turret follow the virtual scenario via a head piece with a built in monitor.

Downing, based at Fort Leonard Wood, travels to train Soldiers on the VTCS at each new station where it is set up. This is the 8th installation the system has been implemented. Across the board, Downing has received nothing but very positive feedback from Soldiers who have undergone the training.

"A lot of these Soldiers have deployed before and done this type of thing in real life, and they say it's just like the real thing," Downing said. "We planned this system for that reason. At a minimum the Soldiers will receive muscle memory for everything that needs to be done on mission. In a real vehicle, if a Soldier has to hit one button before another to make something work, then that is the way it is in the simulator. It was designed to encompass every last detail of a real route clearance mission."

Members of the VTCS team also introduced Mathews to training options outside of route clearance.

"Even though the VTCS is mainly geared for engineer route clearance companies, with the addition of the RG-31, we have opened this system up for anyone to train on," Downing said. "Infantry units can come in and change out the dashboards of the Buffalo simulators for RG-31s and simulate regular convoy operations."

Mathews commended the VTCS team for their hard work on implementing the new system in Hawaii and training USARPAC troops on how to use it.

"I'm impressed," said Mathews. "There are a lot of ways we can integrate this system into our training regimen. We just have to figure out how to make it part of a mandatory prerequisite for all Soldiers training to go to combat. But I'm excited about getting our troops in here and getting them smart on the system."