Virtual environment reinforces real-world skills

20 Feb 2007 | Lance Cpl. Aaron J. Rock 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines conducting convoy security isn't something you would expect to see deep within the bowels of a Navy ship, but thanks to a new training program, Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are kicking up virtual clouds of dust and finding improvised explosive devices (IED) in a computer-generated world.

Marines aboard USS Bataan, Oak Hill and Shreveport are utilizing the Deployable Virtual Training Environment (DVTE) to brush up on an assortment of skills that otherwise would require real world experience or a lot of space and equipment.

The DVTE creates simulations that help train Marines and Sailors in different scenarios and missions they may find themselves in.

The look, feel, and controls of the simulations would be familiar to many video-game enthusiasts, though that is where the similarity ends.

Staff Sergeant Ted R. Fuller, Ground Safety Specialist Officer for the 26th MEU, said the digital training covers several areas, and the scope of the missions and scenarios are limited only by the needs of the class or the imagination of the instructors who build them.

The programs include tactical language instruction in basic Iraqi Arabic and other languages; simulated call-for-fire missions that help teach what ammunition to request and how to report the effects of the mission; convoy operations simulations; a program to bolster troops awareness of IEDs; a program to aid recognition of friendly and hostile vehicles; and programs to aid leadership reactions in scenarios, according to Fuller.

The DVTE package is run on a series of high-end laptop computers which can be linked together to allow the Marines to work side-by-side in a virtual environment, Fuller said.

The 26th MEU has three sets of 11 computers which are distributed across the ships of the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group. Each set includes a joystick which allows control of air support, a microphone headset for communication, and a projector to review the missions after they are completed.

"The programs are the next best thing to boots in the dirt when you're on a boat," Fuller said, "It can be good practice for the [Battalion Landing Team], the [Combat Logistics Battalion], the [Aviation Combat Element], and all troops and leaders."

Staff Sergeant David T. Leibenguth, a platoon sergeant in Echo Company, BLT 2/2, said this is not the first time he has used the system, and that it can be very useful.

"I've used it at the Squad Leader's Course and also at the Infantry Unit Leaders Course," he said, "It can teach Marines about urban tactics and Arabic speaking pretty well."

Staff Sergeant David W. Hendin, also a platoon sergeant in Echo Company, said the IED portions of convoy simulations are especially useful for Marines who haven't been to Iraq yet.

"It's a way to [practice] events like convoy operations and call-for-fire missions," he said, "I'd recommend it for every group that has to do this kind of stuff."

Fuller said the training could pay dividends in the future.

"If one guy sees an IED on the side of the road that he may not have seen before using the course then it has paid off," said Fuller.

The Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is comprised of the Command Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Rein.), Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and Combat Logistics Battalion-26, are currently underway aboard the ships of the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group during a routine, scheduled deployment which departed Camp Lejeune, N.C., January 6, 2007.

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26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)