By T. Anthony BellFebruary 14, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (Feb. 14, 2014) -- Pfc. Larry Black doesn't hold any unrealistic expectations.
The young Soldier, who has never been deployed, realizes the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer -- a virtual environment convoy simulation -- can never be a replacement for the real thing, but a recent practice session convinced him that it is more than adequate as the next best thing.
"I really like the training," he said after participating in an exercise with four other Soldiers at the facility located in building 6235. "It familiarizes you with your sectors of fire, situational awareness and communication. I learned a lot today."
Black, his four vehicle battle buddies and more than 70 others from the 54th Quartermaster Company took turns training in the RVTT Feb. 7. The unit, an element of the 530th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, conducted sessions as a part of its Sergeant's Time weekly training program.
"The intent was to allow the junior Soldiers to take the leadership positions and assess how they performed under that responsibility," said 1st Lt. Nicholas Stern, a unit platoon leader. "It was a success in a lot of areas, and it was useful because it allowed them to see what we can improve on."
The RVTT is comprised of eight lookalike, stationary Humvees (they may also be converted to other vehicles such as the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck) that simulate the sound and ride of the actual vehicle. It also comes equipped with individual and crew-served weapons systems, navigational systems and tactical radios.
Through a wraparound video screen, users can cover the mountainous terrain like that found in Afghanistan or the urban landscapes of Iraq and get exposed to dangers and threats common to each such as harassing locals, improvised explosive devices and small arms fire.
Black and his teammates, led by Sgt. Anthony Webb, were part of a six-vehicle convoy scenario that required it to travel a few miles to pick up another vehicle. They were ambushed along the way.
"It started out with an IED first," said Webb, describing the chain of events. "The IED went off in front of us that bottle necked us in, then we were attacked with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades."
Lulled to a state of restlessness and anticipation due to a painstakingly slow, 15-minute drive to the destination, the Soldiers were quickly awakened to the moments at hand, engaging the enemy with its M-16s and crew-served weapon. Black said although it was a simulation, it warranted a concentrated and thoughtful effort.
"Even though it may seem fun," said Black after the event, "all the things I used like sectors of fire, communication, etc., required a level of seriousness because you don't know if that will be you downrange one day. You have to be serious because it puts things in perspective."
After returning fire for roughly five minutes and doing the best they could to avoid non-combatants, the vehicle was disabled by enemy fire. Spc. Misty Hopp, Black's fellow backseat firer and a two-deployment veteran, said the RVTT is an invaluable training device.
"It's very good practice," she said. "To understand the concept to what could happen; it's actually very realistic."
The aspect of realism was evident during the training. Beads of sweat poured from Hopp's brow during the attack, and all of the Soldiers displayed facial expressions reminiscent of an actual training mission. Spc. John Ardary, the vehicle's turret gunner, said afterward the RVTT requires the same mental and physical efforts as an actual training mission.
"It's as real as it can get without it happening," he said.