Team Orlando Update

MT2 2012: Volume 17 Issue: 4 (June)
Military Training Technology

Army and Marine Corps Formalize Their Training Partnership

Colonel (P) Francisco A. Espaillat, project manager, Combined Arms Tactical Trainers (PM CATT) and Colonel David A. Smith, program manager, Marine Corps Training Systems (PM TRASYS), officially recognized the two organizations' working partnership, signing a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on May 22, 2012.

The MOA outlines the goals, objectives and responsibilities between PM TRASYS and PM CATT in their efforst toward increasing partnership through synergistic capability development. The primary focus of the MOA will be to drive down development, procurment and sustainment costs for similar Army and Marine Corps training requirements.

"The Marines and soldiers that use our training devices will benefit greatly by what we are doing today," said Espaillat. "This synergy we are building around training systems, specially in light of the current and future budget, is critical8 to our future success."

Espaillat also noted how this will help improve technology development by industry. "When we combine our requirements and put them on the table, it is much more powerful, and going forward we can figure out where we need to go, collectively, to train our Marines and soldiers in the future. This is a good for us, and a good day for the training community. "

Smith added, "With the Army and the Marines working more closely together on common training requirements, especially in our approaches to collective and virtual training systems, our industry partners can better leverage their internal resources. I am confident they will appreciate our efforts, and help us drive down our training costs."

Just last summer, PM TRASYS signed an MOU with PM TRADE to officially document their commitment to maintaining a partnership to work together on similar individual soldier and Marine training devices. "From the Marine Corps' perspective, as part of Team Orlando, this is just an extension of what we're already doing-- with PEOSTRI, NAWCTSD and AFAMS," said Smith. "This isn't theory. It is an example of real work being done inside Team Orlando that helps Marines, soldiers and industry."

Espaillat said it is extremely benefial to Team Orlando overall to understand what the joint requirement looks like between the Marine Corps and the Army, because it also helps their industry and academia partners, as well as their own research and development arm.

"With this understanding of the joing requirements, they can figure out what the requirement looks like so they can help us mature the technology necessary to train our future warfighters both in the Marine Corps and in the Army," said Espaillat.

Smith agreed. "Even without the declining defense budgets, what we are doing to increase cooperation and establish working partnerships just makes sense. If PM TRASYS and PM CATT can more clearly define our mutual training requirements for industry, we can dry costs down, and this will benefit everyone involved in the acquisition process. And I think the American Taxpayers will appreciate our efforts too."

Manuever Captains Career Course

The Army Learning Model, as discussed in TRADOC Pamphlet 525-8-2, states that curriculum, technology and software must rapidly change to meet the needs of the modern learning environment. In an effort to adapt to the new learning model, the Manuever Captains Career Course (MCCC) was faced with the problems of changing its organizational behavior, fighting the iPhone culture, and the appropriate software to meet the course curriculm. Even with these major hurdles, MCCC sees value in implementing virtual and gaming simulations directly in the classroom to create decision exercises at the tactical level. Simulations provide students with another form of feedback on the outcome s of decisions in a fluid environment.

MCCC produces agile and adaptive leaders who are skilled in the art and science of mission command in the conduct of decisive action within current and anticipated operational environments. Students are prepared for the leadership, training and administrative requirements needed for company command. Additionally, students receive training to execute the tactical planning responsibilities of Battalion/Brigade level staff officers using the military decision making process.

Why Simulations Work: Excercing the Decision Framework

Historically, students would use paper maps and acetate to conduct the troop leading procedures for a company tactical problem. The student would then brief a small group instructor (SGI) within a given amount of time, usually 60 minutes. The SGI critiqued the student on the strengths and weaknesses of the operations order. By taking a student's plan, placing him in charge of artificially intelligent units or other students, it forces the student commander to create and develop the situation. Instructors can observe and annotate the creation of favorable conditions in the battlefield in real time. Students then learn from analyzing each other and after action reviews (AARs). Were movement control and direct fire control graphics effective in the assault of the objective? Was the support by fire element given enough maneuver space to affect the objective during the breach? These in-depth AAR converstations facilitate student visualization and learning in the small group setting.

In essence, simulation exercises create the environment where actions may be critiqued and lessons may be learned. The MCCC instructors now have the ability to critique how future company commanders capture, process and ultimately act on data information in real time. Additionaly, the SGI can evaluate the student's ability to identify circumstances for actions to maintain momentum, conduct shaping actions that are proactive in influencing the battlefield outcomes, and determine what prudent actions the student should execute immediately (Command and General Staff College, "Trident Valley PE, CGSC Term ll - 2009/2010", Fort Leavenworth, Kan., 2010).

Simulations are an invaluable tool to instructors, allowing students to visualize complex terrain and tactical simulations. The contemporary operating environment resulted in military units focusing on stability operations to ensure continued success in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Proficiency in tasks such as the combined arms breach and a deliberate defense were regulated to a lower training priority. In an attempt to educate the next generation of Army leaders in these unpracticed tasks, MCCC instructors found simulations to be an irreplaceable tool to help students visualize the necessary synchronization and complexities of combined arms operations. The Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT) linked to Fort Rucker's Apache simulators allowed students to conduct air mission briefs, TLPs and engagement area development with actual AH-64 Apache pilots in aviation simulators. Programs such as Steel Beasts by eSim Games alllow students to emplace obstacle plans, battle positions and indirect fire plans within a short period of time after starting the scenario.

The SGI and classmates can then watch their fellow student's operation unfold and provide invaluable insight and tactical analysis.

Challenges

Immersion vs. ease of use: The largest challenge MCCC faces is the inconsistency when it comes to simulations in the classroom. Students will use Virtual Battle Space 2 (VBS2) for their first module, followed by Steel Beasts or CCTT for the second and third, and VBS2 for the fourth. Currently, students use decisive action for the first battalion module, students do a four-hour exercise in UrbanSim. The result is students spend an inordinate amount of time learning new sytems instead of exercising decision making or critical thinking. On average, each student is given a 90-minute block of time to quickly familiarize himself with the software prior to execution. Although tutorials are assigned to students to learn controls, the students sacrifice study of them to spent time on academic assignments, which count toward their grade at MCCC. With the overwhelming majority of students exhibiting the instant technoligical mindset, i.e, short attention spans exemplified by the iPhone culture, they quickly write off complex simulations with unintuitive interfaces and unresponsive artificial intelligence (AI) (Matt Richtel, "Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction", NY Times, 21 November 2010. This decision hinders the spread of simulations as a training tool.

Another contributing factor to students' attitudes toward any simulation is the atmosphere in which the simulation is conducted. All simulation exercises are followed up with a survey that analyzes the ease of use, interface, training value and AI. Instructors and Sim Center staffs noted that student commanders who frame the simulation's strengths and weaknesses, training objectives, and enforce standards and discipline have highrer student ratings in the ease of use and training and training tool categories across the individual seminars. Student commanders must reinforce to fellow students that the simulation will be run in a professional manner similar to an actual field training exercise or combat operation. Positive comments and ratings on the survey were more likely to occur in indivual seminars where the student commander, observed by the SGI, enforced a combat mentality. Examples include pre-combat inspections, communications check, REDCON status, order of march, triggers, brevity on the radio and reporting requirements.

The combat student mentality directly highlights the significant problem faced by the MCCC in introducing simulations. Any organization must select a simulation that fits the training objectives of the organization. When organizations attempt to make simulations go beyond the original scope, the result is often unstable simulations that reduce student learning flow and training value (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Performance. Harper Perennial, 1990). The MCCC requires programs that are reliant upon AI to fill the roles of company level and below. This creates significant issues as the majority of simulations containing AI-driven platoons are in the constructive realm, such as JCATS and Decisive Action. In the case of CCTT, unmanueverable AI units are tethered to human units. This is where the currect programs of record at MCCC do not meet all the training objectives of our couse curriculm. Current programs have manuever captains acting as fire team leaders or squad leaders. Running a company level exercise requires a minimum of 17 to 18 students over command and control interfaces desinged for platoon operations or below. Attempting to stretch VBS2 to the company command without soldiers playing fire team leaders creates span of control, AI path-finding and immersion difficulties. As a result, students develop a lack of drive in continued training with the software.

Student negative survey responses to VBS2 grouped strongly around the graphical user interface and AI. Negative responses in AARs across a goup of 600 students consistently stayed in the 66-70 percent for these two categories. Taking into account student abilities with simulations and SGI support, the responses indicate the functionality of VBS2 does not support company- to battalion-sized engagements whrere indivual soldiers are controlled by the software AI. Path finding, react to contact, and general behavior of a squad controlled by one human in VBS2 results in flow breakdown and significant frustration for the user regardless of his ability to use the program (Curtis Murphy, "Why games work - The Science of Learning", Alion Science and Technology, 2010).

The ideal student runs a company-level operation. A student can enter his plan with an unlimited number of repetitions. This can be achieved with commecial off the shelf (COTS) software that is not yet certified for use on government computers.

Currently, the approval process for units to obtain COTS Software to test against training objectives is cumbersome. Network Enterprise Command is faced with the constant struggle of weighing security and training capabilities through simulations. Future leaders must assist unit training by efficiantly steamlining the software development and approval process without sacrificing security.

The Way Ahead

Progress and Creativity are achieved when students and leaders challenge the status quo. By allowing students freedom of access to programs like Steel Beasts or VBS2 at MCCC, students can test manuever warfare theories and receive unbiased feedback. To create this type of learning environment, an open, supportive command climate is necessary. Major General Brown, commander of the Manuever Center for Excellence, stressed this type of atmosphere to encourage creative adaptive thinking (Robert Brown, Major General, U.S Army, "CG Welcome Brief to MCCC", Feb. 14, 2012, Manuever Center for Excellence, For Benning, GA 31905). The result is the ability of MCCC to implement a software solution that meets training objectives in all tactical modules.

The Manuever Center of Excellence and MCCC are looking leverage simulations in training future agile leaders. All of the modules within MCCC curriculum will contain a simulation. The goal is to standardize the simulation platform across all modules to reduce the difficulties associated with student immersion and learning curve. Standardization of software that meets the curriculum will significantly increase student flow and allow instructors to facilitate more difficult scenarios. The standardized software must meet thre training objectives of the institution and not be constrained by slow software development processes.

See completion version of Simulation Highlights, July 2012