JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- When training Soldiers for combat, realism plays a key role in ensuring preparedness.
First Army Division East trainers at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., immerse Soldiers completely in scenario-based training using the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer, a virtual training system.
"Instituting virtual training for military personnel to experience a variety of wartime scenarios is a cost-effective and time-efficient way to experience the real thing," explained Sgt. 1st Class Jonnie Horne, Counter-IED instructor with 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry Regiment, 174th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East.
The RVTT can be formatted to provide basic convoy awareness for non-combat units and also configured to a special forces training level by adding sister simulators like helicopters. Rotations can last as little as an hour and as long as six hours, said Bret Bussman, principal training and development specialist for the RVTT.
In the trainer, convoy members can hear the 'ping' of simulated shots fired at the vehicle. They feel their seat jolt during a roadside bomb explosion and the weapon kick when it's fired. Surround screens depict civilian vehicles, people and animals in a 100-square-kilometer radius. Time can be set for day or nighttime operations. The screens also show the correct geographical area.
"It is total immersion with surround screens," said Bussman. "The database is as close as they can get to real areas from eastern Afghanistan to the Pakistan border."
The virtual simulators don't replace field training, but they do allow Soldiers familiarization without expending fuel, ammunition, wear and tear on equipment and terrain. Deploying Servicemembers can train multiple times on the same concept without the limitations of an actual field environment.
"We can train three or four units per day versus one in the field," said Bussman, a 20-year retired Army veteran. "There are no limits."
"For example, getting helicopter assistance for some training requires coordination three months in advance and a lot of money," said Bussman. "We just create air support in the simulation trainer. There is no added cost to units."
Additionally, virtual training offers service members the opportunity to try out different vehicle convoy Tactics, Techniques and Procedures without expending fuel and wear and tear on real vehicles. Testing their TTPs prior to heading out to the field also cuts down on safety concerns when detecting Improvised Explosive Devices.
"Whether it's marksmanship, combat lifesaving or convoy operations, virtual simulators are a sustainable training aid," added Horne a native of Jackson, Miss. "They provide realism before going out to the field."
A recent scenario simulation involved a convoy set in Bagram, Afghanistan for military members preparing for missions in that vicinity. They practiced spotting and reacting to IEDs and training communication TTPs among convoy vehicles and higher headquarters.
"It requires us to think as a convoy unit," said Cpt. Jay Turner, Supply Corps Officer with Defense Logistics Agency, Washington D.C. Turner and his team will deploy to Bagram at the conclusion of their training.
"With generational changes, younger service members understand the virtual trainer," said Turner. "It makes more sense."