Posts Tagged ‘Virtual Reality’

Technology prepares NATO Soldiers in Northern Europe

January 16, 2009

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 U.S. Army Garrison Benelux may not have the armor power of Fort Hood, Texas, or the infantry forces of Fort Bragg, N.C., but when it comes to technology, its installations are equipped with some of the Army’s best automation equipment: The Engagement Skills Trainer 2000 and Northern Europe’s only Digital Training Facility.

The Army deployed the EST 2000, a digital marksmanship training tool, to installations around the world at the turn of the century. Chièvres Air Base, in Belgium, and USAG Schinnen, in the Netherlands, were among the recipients of the platform. Both garrisons provide training support to NATO servicemembers stationed in their regions.

The EST 2000 allows troops to practice firing the small arms in their unit’s inventory, using scenarios appropriate to the unit’s mission.

Luiz Velez, a training support specialist at the Chièvres EST, recently taught Soldiers from the USAG Benelux Military Police, 650th Military Intelligence Group and the U.S. Army NATO SHAPE Battalion how to operate the system.

“The training allows Soldiers more flexibility, he said, “so now they can train anytime they want.” They don’t have to draw ammo or have a safety officer present, he added.

The diversity of the EST 2000 allowed the noncommissioned officers to adjust the downrange scenarios to a situation appropriate for their line of work.

“I’ve used this [weapon] in a deployed environment, and this is a great way to train,” said Staff Sgt. John Phillips, a training NCO with 650th MI Group.

Phillips had only been at SHAPE for two months when he received the operator training, but he could already see how it was going to benefit his unit. The 650th MI Group is made up of Soldiers and civilians who deploy downrange, and while the Soldiers attend basic training and learn the ins-and-outs of certain weapons, civilians don’t have those same requirements.

Phillips said the EST 2000 is a great way to keep civilians prepared for their missions. “It ensures you don’t lose familiarity,” he said.

In addition to training scenarios like encountering an enemy or friendly helicopter or facing a desert ambush, the computer-based platform allows Velez and the new operators to control other elements.

“You can design your own type of scenarios,” he said. “You can change the weather and the daylight experience.”

Another benefit of the EST 2000 is the immediate feedback. Following a one- to two-minute exercise, the monitor displays shots fired, hits, misses, percentages and more, allowing the training NCOIC to adjust accordingly for individual Soldier’s needs.

“It’s good for Soldiers in the unit who haven’t fired in a while,” said Sgt. Joe Daley, USAG Benelux MP, adding that it helps them perfect their skills and prepare for weapons qualification.

In addition to maintaining marksmanship skills, as Soldiers’ careers progress and as Army systems evolve to support ever-changing missions, the Army requires additional schooling like the Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course and Medical Protection System.

Living on the other side of the planet can make traveling to military schools in the States challenging and expensive for those working with NATO, which is one of the reasons the Army launched the Distributed Learning System.

“Distributed Learning leverages technology to bring training to Soldiers anytime, anywhere,” said Brett Anderson, the Digital Training Facility manager at Chièvres Air Base.

“Army-wide there are 200 DTFs around the world. All of the DTFs can link with one another to facilitate training that takes place at a single location,” he added.

The recently-upgraded DTF at Chièvres Air Base, operated by the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command, is the only one in Northern Europe, and therefore services every unit within the USAG Benelux’s seven-nation footprint.

At the DTF, Servicemembers, civilians, military and DoD Family members and some foreign military personnel can take part in Web-based training, Video Teletraining and more.

“Some of the courses delivered via VTT are BNCOC Phase I, Battle Staff Non-commissioned Officer Course, and MEDPROS,” said Anderson.

“The DTF is also set-up like any traditional classroom, and resident training can be conducted using technology such as PowerPoint presentations, CD-ROM, DVD in tandem with multi-media projectors available at the facility,” he added.

Aside from professional development, the DTF is available for Army e-Learning courses. Army e-Learning offers thousands of free course hours in a variety of languages like Dutch and French, using Rosetta Stone. It also provides training in business skills, system administration, office systems and more.

“Soldiers may access these resources using any computer,” said Anderson. “The DTF, however, provides a clean, quiet place free of distractions where soldiers can complete their online training requirements.”

Anderson encouraged units and individuals in the region to use the free resource. “In doing so, money is saved, readiness is increased through training standardization and morale is improved as families no longer have to endure long separations when possible,” he said.

Christie Vanover

Air Force Virtual Training for Real-World Missions

December 13, 2008
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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)

Boeing and Creative Technologies Train US Soldiers for War

December 13, 2008
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Boeing has announced a teaming arrangement with Creative Technologies Inc. (CTI) of Hollywood, Calif., to explore new training solutions for the military and law enforcement. The agreement brings together Boeing’s expertise in aviation training systems and CTI’s experience in game-based simulations for ground forces training.

“This agreement allows us to take what we do well and translate it into new possibilities for Boeing in the ground training and simulation arena,” said Mark McGraw, vice president for Training Systems and Services, a division of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems Global Services and Support. “We are committed to finding new ways to use the talents of both companies to expand the services we’re able to offer the military.”

The agreement formalizes an ongoing relationship — CTI is a contributor to the Boeing Future Combat Systems program, and Boeing and CTI are partners in the U.S. Army’s Fires Center of Excellence integration effort at Fort Sill, Okla. The Army approached Boeing and CTI to offer guidance in developing an organization and a training strategy to consolidate the Army’s Air Defense Artillery School and Center, previously based at Fort Bliss, Texas, and the Field Artillery School and Center based at Fort Sill. The Boeing-CTI team is making recommendations for potential synergies and long-term training strategies while developing a technology plan to support current and future Fires Center of Excellence missions.

“We’re excited to combine Boeing’s industry leadership and broad range of capabilities with CTI’s know-how, relationships and agility,” said CTI President and CEO James Korris. “Simulation for ground forces and law enforcement is still, in many ways, in its infancy; we look forward to helping shape this evolving market. We’ve had a great run with Boeing. We’re thrilled to be their teammate.”

One possible area of growth is deployable field-artillery training for soldiers who are either in-theater or home between deployments. “These trainers would be designed to travel to a soldier’s home base or directly to the front lines to keep our warfighters current on their artillery skills,” said McGraw.

Virtual Reality Aims to Enhance UAV Ops

September 10, 2008

An Air Force Office of Scientific Research-managed team in Arlington (VA) is building a virtual reality environment for the battlespace initiative to maximize the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles. 

The team is applying advanced physical and eye-tracking systems and voice interfaces, said Dr. James Oliver, the Iowa State University lead researcher.

“Our goal is to provide role specific interfaces for a team and shared situational awareness using a large display,” Dr. Oliver said.

The team initially is trying to solve significant human interface issues arising from limitations affecting operators who control UAVs from the ground. They are also designing and testing the hardware, software and aeronautical systems to create immersive ground control stations based on virtual reality technology.

“We are using a virtual environment of the battleground as the primary interface context, with the variety of information sources available in a modern military engagement,” Dr. Oliver said. “We’re also developing and measuring the effectiveness of new human interface techniques, which will enable operators to effectively control multiple, semi-autonomous aircraft. Already, up to 230 persons can be interfaced to participate in the system simultaneously.”

The virtual reality environment uses a 3-D audiovisual stereoscopic facility, with six walls, 24 projectors, ultrasonic motion tracking, eight-channel audio and a graphics computer. The context has many benefits including large field of view and innovative information representation.

The virtual reality environment will enable participants to see the vehicles, the surrounding airspace and the terrain they are flying over as well as information from instruments, cameras, radar and weapons systems. This approach can solve the critical operational and training challenges that must be overcome to allow an operator to simultaneously monitor and control several UAVs at the same time.

“We are also exploring new ways to employ virtual reality to address the challenge of time lag that is characteristic of applications where machines are operated at a distance,” Dr. Oliver said.

Maria Callier