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August 12, 2011


Virtual Battle Space Simulation facility, scenarios benefit Soldiers

Story & photo by Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

Soldiers can increase their understanding of the terrain and scenarios they will encounter during training or deployment and maximize their effectiveness by using the Virtual Battle Space Simulation (VBS2) facility at Fort McCoy.
PHOTO: Soldiers use equipment at the Virtual Battle Space Simulation facility at Fort McCoy. Photo by Rob Schuette
Master Sgt. Augustin Gonzalez (left) and Sgt. 1st Class Bill Toolan of the 75th Division of Fort Dix, N.J., and Angie Green, a CACI employee from Fort Dix, use equipment at the Virtual Battle Space Simulation facility at Fort McCoy during the Combat Support Training Exercise. The facility supports military simulation training.

Dale Waggoner and Mike Latour, instructors/administrators for the facility, are contractors with General Dynamics Information Technology. VBS2 is aligned with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS).

“The facility can be used by any units who come here for training,” Waggoner said. “The units conduct collective training on their standing operating procedures (SOPs) and techniques, tactics and procedures (TTPs) in a virtual environment.”

The training can include convoy operations, mounted and dismounted operations, combat platforms, small arms and vehicle-mounted weapons, as well as intelligence gathering, Waggoner said.

Weather elements, such as fog, wind and rain, and time of day can be programmed in to provide realistic training, he said.

Soldiers also can train on VBS2 in a real-time scenario.

VBS2 and other simulations/simulators are not intended to replace boots-on-the-ground training, but to allow units to rehearse and train before conducting the actual mission/training, he said.

VBS2 is used for a wide range of simulation purposes, including mission rehearsals. The program is used most effectively when the Soldiers have a predetermined agenda of what they should accomplish and leadership that supervises them to ensure they do things correctly, Waggoner said.

“The training encourages teamwork and communication,” Waggoner said. “The missions are recorded so you can see what happened and hear the communications.”

The playback also can be adjusted to show the action through the eyes of an individual Soldier. Waggoner said this allows everyone, including the affected Soldier, to see the action from a specific viewpoint and better understand the factors a Soldier saw before making a decision.

Latour said one of the biggest benefits of the system is Soldiers can see and experience the terrain of an area before deploying there. In addition to Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., this also includes Fort McCoy training areas.

“They can rehearse their missions before they actually do them on the ground, which is a very valuable tool,” Latour said. “We also have the capability to edit in things, like personnel — both friendly and enemy — and equipment on the fly so we can see how a unit reacts.”

“Leaders can observe what’s happening throughout the exercise and make on-the-spot corrections, if necessary,” Latour said. “Younger Soldiers are into gaming these days so they have a background to use it.”

“But it’s not like a video game,” he said. “You can’t shoot up everybody. It’s key to have senior leadership present for training and to control it so the Soldiers learn to make the right decisions.”

Master Sgt. Augustin Gonzalez of the 75th Division, 1st MCTG (Mission Command Training Group) of Fort Dix, N.J., said Soldiers involved in the Combat Support Training Exercise gained a big advantage by seeing a simulation of the actual real-world training they would later participate in at Fort McCoy.

Sgt. 1st Class Bill Toolan of the 75th, 1st MCTG, said the Soldiers had to shoot, move and communicate in a combat environment.

“They started at the Forward Operating Base (Contingency Operating Location), had to reach an objective and then return to the FOB,” Toolan said. “This gave them a real-world objective of what could happen if they had a deployment mission.”
Gonzalez said the after-action review/playback feature of the simulation is a big point for the unit leaders and Soldiers.

“Leaders can use it as an educational experience,” he said. “Soldiers can train on crawl, walk and run techniques as a squad or section.”

Toolan said the training taught the units about the proper vehicle spacing needed to help reduce and eliminate any possibility of friendly fire. The key is to use communications to guide the Soldiers around.

“Leaders also can use the system to sharpen and fine-tune their SOPs and TTPs,” he said. “It can simulate any mode of movement — foot traffic, planes, helicopters, vehicles and convoys.”

VBS2 also can be connected to other external computer systems so unit representatives can view the training off site. Gonzalez added the simulated training also reduces logistical needs and costs.

Soldiers also can receive language training through the system and practice what they have learned through graphics and tutorials, Latour said.

This allows them to build their sills through various scenarios and role playing.

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