Computer simulations offer real-world training

Pvt. John Hudspeth
21st Theater Support Command

***image1***Several 21st Theater Support Command Soldiers “died” when their convoy was virtually attacked twice in a place similar to Iraq.
“A truck in one of our convoys was attacked by enemy sniper fire and it eventually ended up half submerged in the river below the bridge after it fell; both of the Soldiers in that vehicle are dead,” said 1st Lt. Tucker Mahoney, the Executive Officer in charge of Cargo Transfer Company, 191st Ordnance Battalion, 29th Support Group.
Luckily, it’s one of many simulations the 21st Theater Support Command’s Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulator has created to run the 191st Ordnance Battalion’s military leaders and their staff through the decision making processes that come with real world conflicts.
“The Computer Assisted Exercise (CAX) provides users with an opportunity to encounter life-like, real-time problems that are often experienced in the field,” said Maj. Chris Whittaker, the 29th Support Group’s 191st Ordnance Battalion’s Executive Officer. “This training will take them through the entire gambit of problem solving and decision making; the military protocol that needs to be followed; and the cause and effect and how to react to certain situations.”
During the three-day CAX, members of the 191st Ord. Bn. were divided into the scaled down equivalents of the Tactical Operations Center, the main headquarters of operations and six other different specialized companies functioning in a deployed environment—like Iraq.
Each of the units performs their normal, daily, run of the mill duties and then the simulation throws in a challenge or two, or three, or four.
“The Army these days multitasks, and that’s the nature of combat services; that’s the nature of this training,” said Sgt. Donn Antonia, Training NCO in charge for the 23rd Ordnance Company, 191st Ord. Bn., 29th Support Group.
Suddenly, either the mock transportation company commander and staff, or the mock security police company commander and staff, are dealing with a convoy that ran over an Improvised Explosive Device and now needs medical attention, or an unexploded car bomb planted by terrorists in front of headquarters, or perhaps a local gang armed with AK-47’s that has decided to cause an uprising, or one of the convoys is lost and pinned down by enemy snipers with an angry mob of unarmed local nationals coming to the scene — the list goes on and on.
“The simulator provides awesome realism,” said Billy Freeburn, the site-leader for Northrop Grumman, the company providing information and technical support personnel to the 21st TSC. He is also one of nine computer controllers on the project. “But not so much realism that the Army loses expensive equipment or even worse – lives.”
The simulator has over 150 catalystic situations, in which an almost infinite number of possible scenarios could exist.
“If this were real life, these situations would be an awesome pressure cooker to deal with,” said Capt. Jeffery Knight, the operations officer for the 191st Ord. Bn. “This training gives everyone here a very good appreciation of the jobs Soldiers are performing downrange.”