Do-It-Yourself Simulators Speeding Up Army Training (UPDATED)

By Chelsea Todaro
 A new generation of simulation software is promising to put more control into the hands of trainers, who can create their own computer-based exercises in a matter of hours. 

The Army Training and Doctrine Command tasked the training brain operations center to create an exercise-design tool called Training Brain Repository. The web-based application allows instructors to create realistic exercises that replicate operational environments, Tony Cerri, director of the data transformation lab, TRADOC G2, at the training brain operations center, said at an annual modeling and simulation expo sponsored by the National Training and Simulation Association on Capitol Hill.

“It is both a repository and exercise design tool that’s intended to put the power back in the users’ hands instead of having to go talk to a simulationist,” said Cerri. Testing on the new tool wrapped up in November and the program was released for wider use in July, he said.

The Training Brain Repository allows for continuous instruction at a soldier’s home station, he said. The software creates simulated real-time operations, using intelligence reports and surveillance feeds. All the tools to create a training support package are provided through a web browser, he said.

Training planners can create their own support package, which allows for the selection of specific scenarios, operation orders and timelines. This excludes the necessity for multiple trainers to set up a simulation, he said.

“They can create story lines, create units, … do their own graphics and anything that is necessary to create an exercise,” said Cerri.

The Training Brain Repository reduces the preparation time needed to instruct soldiers, which reduces the cost of training, he said. Typical training support packages would take a month to create. “We’ve had users create a full [package] in an afternoon using the technology, so we see a big time savings there,” said Cerri.

Users at different workstations can work interactively on the same training support package because the software contains a storyline synchronization tool that updates changes made to simulation timelines instantly, Cerri said.

Also, anyone authorized can have access to the program with no source codes required. It “is 100 percent open source, so if someone calls me I can give them the code [for access],” said Cerri.

The training brain operations center continually updates the repository through user feedback.  “It really is a matter of what the user wants. ... We want that kind of feedback so we can add to it,” Cerri said.

Another new computer-generated simulation program the military is using is called VR-Forces. Built by VT MÄK, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based software creator, it provides simulation models, and has been used by the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, said Daniel Williams, business development executive for the company.

VR-Forces can help instructors insert different types of vehicles, aircraft and ships into a program. The avatars are assigned tasks such as moving to reference points for navigation, following user-specified routes and sector search and rescue, he said. VR-Forces can create thousands of avatars simultaneously and scale them to cover many different environments, said Williams. 

VR-Forces provides a simple way to edit scenarios, he said. Users can run multiple exercises on more than one computer and interact in the same simulation simultaneously with their own avatars. “You could be looking at me and seeing what I do in a [simulated] environment,” said Williams. 

Another feature of VR-Forces is its capability of switching from 2D to 3D views. A 2D view provides a map display of the simulated environment, where a 3D view provides a situational picture that allows precise placement of avatars on the terrain, he said. “You can create different entities and decide where to control them … such as flying an airplane or driving a vehicle,” said Williams.

VT MÄK has improved its 3D visual qualities, he said. There are more realistic vehicles, weapons and terrain. “We put a lot of focus on graphics and what kinds of weapon platforms are available. We are focused on adding more visual qualities and capabilities,” said Williams.  Users can create and customize scenarios at a faster rate.

VT MÄK also provides another program called Battle Command, which is designed for senior officers, said Williams. Battle Command allows combatant commanders to practice their planning and execution in a simulation environment.

“It takes [training] and focuses it at a slightly different level so that a battle commander can get the training he needs from the decision making process,” he said.

Commanders are able to create text-based plans for simulation and then put their plan against other players. They also work with other participants to revise their plans and learn better strategies.

“Battle Command was customized specifically for tasks that they need … which is very different from someone learning how to work a machine gun,” said Williams.
The software provides charts and tracking information at the end of the simulation that determines the success of the player’s battle plan and a recording of the exercise for later review, he said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the acronym for TRADOC and left out a portion of Tony Cerri’s title. Additionally, the article
missstated the creator of the Training Brain Repository.

Topics: Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training, ComputerBased Training, Live Training

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