Fort McCoy News May 13, 2016

ROTC cadets encounter virtual staff ride at VBS3

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

The first "virtual staff ride" was held April 29 Fort McCoy's Virtual Battle Space 3 (VBS3) simulation facility for 14 senior cadets with the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Oshkosh ROTC Program.

A "staff ride," a traditional training event for the Army, is a historical study of a campaign or battle that includes a preliminary study, a visit to campaign sites, and an opportunity to integrate lessons derived from each, according to the Army's Combined Arms Center (CAC) Combat Studies Institute (CSI) at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., which coordinates staff-ride training. A significant component of a staff ride is the analysis of the terrain over which the action took place and the effect of that terrain upon the battle or campaign.

Senior Consultant and Trainer Mike Latour, contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton, which supports the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, talks to cadets.
Senior Consultant and Trainer Mike Latour, contractor with Booz Allen
Hamilton, which supports the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization
and Security, talks to cadets.

A "virtual" staff ride follows the same methodology as a traditional staff ride, except the terrain is replicated in a virtual environment, according the CAC website, usacac.army.mil/organizations/cace.

Mike Latour, senior consultant and trainer with contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, which supports the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security's VBS3 facility, said he and Johan Haraldsen, senior military-science instructor with the UW-Oshkosh ROTC, collaborated on bringing the training to Fort McCoy.

The VBS3 facility is used for a wide range of simulation purposes, including mission rehearsals, Latour said. 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.

"The VBS3 facility is perfectly set up to hold this kind of training," Latour said. "For this training event, we received the product from CSI and we adapted it for use in this facility."

The virtual staff ride focused on a convoy operation of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company that was ambushed by Iraqi forces during the Battle of Nasiriyah in March 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The training included an animated slide show, simulation video, and step-by-step presentation of the operation.

"The idea is (the cadets) will go through this staff ride, and then at the conclusion they'll look at different observations as well as lessons learned," Latour said. "They'll learn how something like this will affect them in the future when they become lieutenants and if they become platoon leaders or company commanders."

Haraldsen said the training provided excellent leadership points for the cadets.

"(The training) is not a critique of an individual, and it's not a critique of a battle," Haraldsen said. "It's an attempt to identify lessons learned and ask the question, 'Why did the commander or why did this individual do this at this time? What influenced him? Was it the weather or what he could see? Was it what he knew or didn't know? It could be dozens and dozens of things.

Senior Military Science Instructor Johan Haraldsen with the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh presents a training class called a “virtual staff ride” April 29 at the Fort McCoy Virtual Battle Space 3 simulation facility.
Senior Military Science Instructor Johan Haraldsen with the University
of Wisconsin-Oshkosh presents a training class called a "virtual staff ride"
April 29 at the Fort McCoy Virtual Battle Space 3 simulation facility.

"Through this (training), we ask our future lieutenants what lessons are there that a new lieutenant can take with him to his first assignment," Haraldsen said. "This training also helps the cadets understand how it happened and will help them if they are placed in a similar situation in the future."

Latour said with this first session of a virtual staff ride complete, more training events like this can occur in the future. CSI offers four different scenarios that could work with the VBS3 system.

"One of the good things about the VBS3 system and the virtual staff ride training is I also can convert it to be mobile and take it to a unit on a battle assembly," Latour said.

In addition to the 14 senior cadets completing the virtual staff ride, Haraldsen said freshman, sophomore, and junior cadets from UW-Oshkosh trained at the same time at one of Fort McCoy's Engagement Skills Trainers, and all 81 cadets also completed some field training on South Post April 30.

"We utilize the materiel and the logistics as well as all the simulation and training facilities," Haraldsen said. "Fort McCoy tends to become a hub for (nearly) all of our collective training."

For more information about the VBS3 facility and other Fort McCoy simulation facilities, call 608-388-2733. For more information about UW-Oshkosh's ROTC Program, go online to www.uwosh.edu/rotc.