Train like you fight, fight like you train

Simulating Fallujah

This Computer World article is long on generalizations and short on details, but it gives a glimpse at how computing power is being used to help train our soldiers. MO’s noted game-type simulations before, but this caught my eye:

Dare Westmorland is senior vice president of Titan Dynamics Systems Inc., a company in Marshall, Texas, that has melded real-world explosives and fireworks with IT to create a controlled training environment that gives soldiers the sounds, sights and smells of the real battlefield.

Titan’s computer-controlled products are being used at Fort Knox for convoy training. “We’ve combined microprocessors and pyrotechnics to create a realistic battlefield,” explains Westmorland.

The realism is enough to get a helicopter pilot’s blood pumping, he says. The company’s rocket-propelled grenade simulator, for example, will set off all of the onboard alarms when fired toward an incoming helicopter full of Marines or soldiers.

I searched, but didn’t find anything specific on this program, but I did find an interesting article on the Multi-Air Defensive Simulator System (MADSS)

which launches smoke cartridges into the air to simulate the launch of a MANPADS. The system quickly proved its’ utility as rotary wing aircrews commented on the added value to training that the system provided. The system requires one person to operate. No electric is required enabling the operator to have the same mobility as a MANPADS gunner. The Stinger cartridges ascend to an altitude of 400 feet. The cartridge is a powder tablet that poses no danger to aircraft. The cost of each “Smokey SAM” cartridge is $3.00, so t he low cost makes this system cost effective. The system is igniter-less so there is no danger of pre-launch ignition of the cartridge. The system also incorporates a laser device that activates the AVR-2 Laser Detection Device on the aircraft. Thus the system replicates the launch plume and ensuing ascent with a smoke cartridge and then activates the AVR-2 simulating “laser beam riding” systems.

This sounds similar to what the Computer World article is talking about.

I’m curious about the computer/pyrotechnics training program at Fort Knox. I did find this article about urban training at Fort Knox, but it didn’t have any info about the cutting-edge IT stuff the Computer World article hints at. Though I did learn that the Fort Knox urban training complex is called “Doom City”. I wonder if that’s “the city of doom” or if it got the nickname from the first-person shooter game DOOM.

I also came across this article on military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) training:

The 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment (1-14 CAV), part of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division—the Army’s first interim brigade combat team (IBCT) and first Stryker brigade—turned to alternative training opportunities when it found itself between completion of the home station MOUT facility and availability of time at JRTC. As the only RSTA-capable (reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition) squadron in the Army, 1-14 CAV was eager to put its new equipment, capabilities and mission profile to the test.

To accomplish that, squadron commander Lieutenant Colonel James Cashwell took his unit to the Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA)—formerly George AFB—in Victorville, CA, for 10 days of intensive MOUT training in November 2002. Given full access to more than 200 acres of abandoned former military housing and other buildings, Cashwell had a perfect “urban” environment in which to test equipment, tactics and training.

“The advantage of George AFB is it is ugly, torn up, all the windows are broken [and] trees have fallen down in the street. It’s perfect for the replication of a war-torn city. You can deploy strategically into it because of the old Air Force runway right there, then enter this complex old city—a wide variation of structures and multiple blocks, where at most MOUT facilities there are only a couple of blocks with maybe 20 buildings. At George you could have troops several blocks apart and unable to see each other,” he said.

“When we went into George, I had two primary objectives. First was urban recon—our charter is not to kick down the door and fight, although we have to be able to do that. Second was developing the human dimension. We hired about 50 civilians to play out particular roles in the streets. The architecture of that had to be done months in advance—we actually had to write a play, so to speak. In the squadron, I have an MOS [military occupational specialty] designed to interact with people and collect information—something you have to devote a lot of time to because you can’t ignore the populace. In World War II, if a sniper was shooting at you, you leveled the town. You can’t do that today.”

Well, usually not, anyway. The 1-14 CAV performed brilliantly during the first Stryker brigade deployment. I’ve got to think training in that “real” environment helped.

Our military is adapting relatively quickly (for a government agency) to the real-world situations it’s finding itself in. From additional armored Humvees to body armor for everyone, from evolving helicopter tactics to Camel-Bak canteens, necessity is the mother of invention. Now if they’d just listen to the troops on the 5.56…

UPDATE: Plus, Strategy Page notes that WARSIM is finally going online for the Army.