Air Force Virtual Training for Real-World Missions

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A $1.5 million virtual training environment housed in a hangar at the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center (Wisconsin) offers security forces personnel and other Airmen realistic fire team convoy training. 

Much like an IMAX, a 280-degree screen brings to life real-world scenarios designed to put a four-person fire team made up of a driver, gunner, rifleman and troop commander, through the paces of an actual convoy mission.

Trainees are put through scenarios designed by 115th Security Forces Squadron members who have real-world experience.

With the virtual training, four Airmen strap in to a well-equipped Humvee as it rumbles along a road in some remote area of Iraq and are required to identify and neutralize hostile forces while escorting a convoy. 

Tech Sgt. Jody Sammons, fire team leader with the 115th SFS, is one of three unit members who received the Combat Action Medal for missions they participated in while deployed to Iraq. Along with Tech. Sgt. Fred Ciebell, a SFS member, Sergeant Sammons develops real-world inspired scenarios using a modified Humvee, airpowered weapons and a computer-generated environment complete with hostile forces and various hazards.

“The basics that we want the trainees to learn include identification of hostile forces, basic use of the weapon, which builds up muscle memory,” Sergeant Sammons said. “One of the most important elements of the training is getting the Airmen to learn their gear and feel comfortable using it.”

Even though the scenario plays out on a huge screen, an integral part of the training is the modified Humvee that is designed to be driven similar to one Airmen might use in an actual convoy mission. The vehicle is also set up to respond to changes in the terrain that the driver’s sees on the screen.

Familiarization with the vehicle, compass and Global Positioning System, while learning to take a breath and relax are the skills Sergeant Sammons said he hopes his students take away from this training.

Learning to work as a team is also reinforced by the trainers. The Airmen who participate not only get valuable training time doing the scenarios, but also they get firsthand knowledge from those who have been on convoy missions in Iraq.

“This training is good because in the scenarios, you actually have people shooting back at you and you can see if they go down or if you need to keep shooting,” said Senior Airman Kim Shortner, a fire team member with the 115th SFS. “It is more real life like than just shooting at a target.”

While the mix of computer-generated scenarios and the use of life-like equipment gives the training almost super video game like experience, Sergeant Sammons said he hopes that even though some trainees use their gaming skills, that they treat it like a real-world experience.

“Anytime we can have this real-world, low cost type of training is outstanding,” said Lt. Col. Brian Buhler, the 115th SFS commander. “Having this training opportunity so close to the unit allows us to maximize our training resources, allowing more people to get this valuable training experience.” 

Don Nelson (AFNS)

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