With National Guard units stretched across California, bringing them together
for training is a costly endeavor. Troops often have to be bused from Sacramento
or San Diego to Camp San Luis Obispo, along the state’s central coast.
An experimental training technology now being introduced allows the Guard to
integrate live and virtual combat training environments without having to move
troops and equipment hundreds of miles.
The Joint Training Experimentation Program (JTEP) eventually could let the
California Army National Guard hold joint training with its Air Guard counterparts,
something that is tough to do now, said Maj. Gen. Paul D. Monroe, Jr., adjutant
general of the California National Guard.
The Deployable Force on Force Instrumented Range System (DFIRST) is the initial
live instrumentation component system for JTEP. It is a comprehensive instrumented
training system for armored ground combat maneuver and gunnery exercises. National
Guard units in California, Idaho, Kentucky and Mississippi currently use it,
according to Chris Terndrup, program director for instrumentation and simulation
with SRI International.
SRI International developed both JTEP and DFIRST for the California National
In May 2003, the Guard held its first live demonstrations of JTEP, at Camp
San Luis Obispo and Camp Roberts, both about 50 miles apart. The technology
allowed military units to train together on an artificial battlefield where
virtual and live armored units engaged each other.
“Simply put, JTEP is a program that integrates the live, virtual and
constructive training environments to allow units to train as complete units,
but at substantially reduced costs and reduced travel time,” said California
National Guard JTEP program manager, Col. John Bernatz. “Those benefits
result in increased training time.”
Live exercises include real soldiers, vehicles and environment; only the weapons
are simulated. Virtual simulation uses real soldiers, but everything else is
simulated. In constructive simulation, everything is simulated with the possible
exception of a few participants.
Exercises at Combat Training Centers and those conducted with DFIRST are examples
of live simulations. Virtual simulations include the Close Combat Tactical Trainer
(CCTT) and flight simulators. Constructive simulations include the Joint Conflict
and Tactical Simulation (JCATS).
“The outcomes of JTEP allow a unit to link all three environments into
the same exercise. Everybody trains as a team at the same time, on the same
terrain, with the same scenario, against the same operational force,”
said Bernatz. “[Live, virtual and constructive] integration—which
is the outcome of JTEP—overcomes the shortfalls of stovepiped training.”
At the May demonstration, the California National Guard used a Humvee to simulate
a tank platoon. The friendly force initially moved in, traveling overwatch until
it reached a particular point after which enemy contact was likely. So the friendly
forces changed movement technique to bounding overwatch until they achieved
“We used a small [opposing force] comprised of two [Humvees] guised as
T-72s and one guised as a BTR (an amphibious Russian Army armored personnel
carrier),” Bernatz said. “Additionally there were constructive [opposing
forces] on the field, represented by a series of popup targets used to simulate
a live response to the constructive enemy entities.”
The constructive targets were able to return fire in JCATS, and successfully
attack friendlies, just as the friendlies engaged both live and constructive
enemy, he added.
“Behind the moving friendly live force, there was the remainder of the
battalion, represented constructively, who then in JCATS, engaged and destroyed
the remainder of the enemy force, also constructively replicated,” Bernatz
JTEP can also conduct battalion-level exercises more cost effectively, said
John Shockley, SRI’s senior research engineer.
DFIRST allows the tracking of live entities in a constructive simulation. As
a battlefield system, DFIRST permits assessment of direct and indirect fire,
allows for resolution of engagements and the tracking of individuals. It is
also easier to mount on vehicles than earlier systems, and does not require
detailed bore sighting and zeroing processes, officials said. DFIRST allows
a unit to “guise” systems differently, said Bernatz.
“Thus, it is possible for a tank or [mechanized] company commander to
train leaders using Humvees with DFIRST guised as M1A1 tanks,” he said.
Bernatz said troops had to go through some degree of training on the JCATS
constructive simulation. “But that is simple enough to do and relatively
DFIRST also required a learning curve, he added. “It’s not overly
complex, and contractor support is likely to remain available for the foreseeable
future to make all that work effectively.”
The difficulty may come in convincing troops that JTEP really works. A unit
“can train over extended distances on existing communications infrastructure
using personal computers in the home station armory,” said Bernatz.
“This will be a new experience for our soldiers, but they will accept
it and be glad they have it once they see it work,” he added.
But Bernatz doesn’t believe that simulators will replace live training.
“Ultimately, there is no substitute for live training, for getting soldiers
and units ready for war. Commanders from the recent Iraqi war confirm this,”
he said. “Live training must remain the capstone series of training events
soldiers undergo prior to deployment for combat, for peacekeeping or for other
Virtual training linked with live events does allow a greater “bang for
the buck, once the entire unit trains live against a full up thinking, interactive
opposing force,” said Bernatz.
“The more units can conduct simulations and virtual training, the likelier
they are to be successful at the live, and ultimately, at the real events,”
he said. “Linking live, virtual, and constructive training enhances the
training value of the live event and makes it significantly more successful
because the units can run multiple events prior to engaging in live training.”
In December 2002, SRI won a $3 million contract to develop a combat readiness
training system for the California Army National Guard. Initially, there were
a number of challenges in creating JTEP, according to Shockley.
“First, we needed to determine the systems that we would link and how
we would link them,” he said.
The systems had to be owned by the California National Guard or available to
it, Shockley added. The systems also needed an interface capability, so that
they could be linked for the JTEP exercises, he said.
Once the systems were selected, SRI had to determine a way to integrate DFIRST
for the live component, CCTT for the virtual components and JCATS for the constructive
component, said Shockley.
SRI encountered some other glitches. Initially, they had problems connecting
DFIRST to GuardNet (the Army National Guard’s wide area network linking
all 50 National Guard commands) over a wireless LAN (local area network) in
the first demonstration, he said. But a back-up link provided the needed connectivity.
“There were also some concerns that we had in using GuardNet as our connecting
network,” he said. One issue was having sufficient bandwidth between sites
and reliable communications between systems. Because SRI’s offices are
in Menlo Park, several hundred miles north of the Guard’s San Luis Obispo
facilities, the interoperability system had to be tested over the Internet,
“As a result, we identified early the issues associated with a non-dedicated
network and came up with a solution before this could impact the [demonstration]
configuration,” he said.
There also have been issues with scheduling the second demonstration, because
of deployments that are becoming more common for Guard units, he said.
“These deployments have served to re-emphasize the need for JTEP to provide
training to them while in their deployed locations,” Shockley said.
A second demonstration was scheduled for August, but that has since been moved
Guard units that participated in the May demonstration were selected based
upon their type of training and their availability to support the exercise,
said Shockley. Armor training is the focus that JTEP has chosen for initial
demonstrations. Plans call for JTEP to eventually be available to Guard units
across the country. That could prove a big financial benefit for Guard units
as states struggle to balance their budgets.
“It will be a tremendous cost savings,” said Monroe, “because
it will eliminate the need to travel.”