Written by Sgt. Ray Reyes, 444th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, New Jersey Army National Guard
Coast Guardsmen who normally patrol the high seas for drug runners or environmental hazards were the first behind the wheel of the latest high-tech combat convoy simulator addition at Fort Dix.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s Redeployment Assistance Inspection Detachment Team 13 was the first military unit to ever use the newly-fielded Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer simulator, taking part in simulated Afghanistan defensive combat situations on Saturday, April 2. The RAID Team has been undergoing Army basic combat skills training at mobilization station for the past month.
“The RVTT simulator is an invaluable tool since it combines elements of all of the training the team has acquired from the Army over the past month at Fort Dix, and actually puts it together in real-time scenarios in deployed environments,” said RAID Training Officer Lt. James K. Cullen of Lake Hopatcong, NJ.
The Coast Guardsmen were trained on the RVTT in preparation for their upcoming deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. Working closely with Army units, forward-deployed U.S. Coast Guard RAID members oversee hazardous materials movement from remote locations in combat zones. Most RAID members will be working in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.
The RVTT simulator, which was installed in February and underwent testing, is the newest part of the military’s growing arsenal of realistic simulations for Fort Dix in the 3500 training area. Military personnel in a convoy of full-sized vehicles can feel a simulated rumbling of their engines in their seats, hear the engine roar louder as the vehicles accelerate, and hear gunshots and feel recoil as they fire their weapons to fend off the enemy. As the military relies more heavily on advanced simulations to prepare war fighters for combat, realism has become a key aspect to training. If the RVTT was any more lifelike, the RAID team would have needed to clean bugs off their windshields.
The RVTT system is unlike most traditional computer simulators or engagement skills trainers because it surrounds personnel in a realistic, 360-degree virtual world.
The RVTT system consists of a series of trailers equipped with life-size replicas of four HMMWVs surrounded by floor-to-ceiling movie screens. These simulators contain everything found in the real tactical vehicle, to include secure radios, individual and crew-served weapons, and current command and control systems. Troops familiar with the equipment require only moments to be fully operational in the simulator. An additional trailer provides a training room, command and control and full AAR capabilities.
Cullen, who recently completed a RAID Team combat tour in the Middle East and now serves as the RAID Team Training Officer, arranged for his students to have the opportunity to train on the new equipment because he felt the RVTT was very realistic. Cullen recalled during one convoy training exercise he experienced motion sickness because he was so involved in the simulator’s realism.
“The simulators can convince you that you’re really there,” said Cullen.
One of the RVTT’s features is its ability to change the type of vehicle configuration to suit the training. For example, the dashboard for the RAID Team’s exercises is configured to HMMWV using touch screen display. Another change inside the vehicle can also replicate driver and convoy training If the another training unit will be conducting missions using a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck , or HEMTT, a touch of the button and exchange of a few cosmetic pieces, the vehicle is ready for training.
During these tough economic times, the RVTT provides a cost-effective option to military units who want more training for the buck, said RVTT simulator supervisor Bret Bussman, of Young America, Minnesota. As the Warrior Training contract manager, Bussman noted that with the current economy “everybody is looking for cutbacks.”
Using an on-site virtual reality simulator saves fuel and ammunition costs, and will provide more training in less time than if personnel were actually taking their own vehicles and weapons out to remote training areas.