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Leavenworth soldiers hit virtual battlefields

Oct. 28, 2012 - 01:54PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 28, 2012 - 01:54PM  |  
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FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. Soldiers at Fort Leavenworth demonstrated a new virtual training system aimed at preparing soldiers for combat without the expense and danger of live training.

The Dismounted Soldier Training System uses helmet-mounted screens that show soldiers what they could face on combat patrols. Noises such as gunfire are delivered through speakers in the helmet.

The Army says the system also gives soldiers a 360-degree view of the battlefield and the location of other soldiers, letting them train to perform their tasks in a safe environment. During the exercises, they carry the weapons they would use in combat. The training allows a squad of nine soldiers to communicate and work together with others just as they might on the battlefield.

Soldiers demonstrated the new system Thursday at Fort Leavenworth, showing how the military has taken simulation to a new level. About 20 such systems are in use, The Kansas City Star ( reported.

While the military has used video game technology for years to simulate war and has used simulations for decades to train pilots, until now there was little virtual training that could truly help a soldier on foot.

"You don't want to fly on a commercial airliner where your pilot hasn't logged thousands of hours on a flight simulator," said Dan Miller, a virtual training expert and military analyst.

Miller said the virtual system is intended to sharpen skills and help maximize live training. Miller is also the project leader for TRADOC Capability Manager Virtual, the Fort Leavenworth-based military organization that plans, manages and integrates Army virtual simulations. The system is portable and can be set up and used in four hours and allows the military to train large formations in small places.

The program has limitations, however. The program recognizes some gestures, but it doesn't pick up all the details that can be important on the battlefield, such as holding up two fingers to suggest two enemies are present.

The program won't replace the physical intensity of live training. But it helps soldiers practice and gain experience before going out to live training missions. The virtual system can also be less expensive than live training. The new system is about $470,000, whereas a large live exercise costs millions of dollars for two to three days.

Mike Lundy, deputy commanding general of the Combined Arms Center Training at Fort Leavenworth, said that with the virtual system, obstacles that could injure soldiers or damage equipment can be part of a regular training regimen without fear of injury. Lundy said the system also makes it easy to move through different conditions, from day to night, rain to sunlight, confronting a lethal enemy or a noncombatant.

"The things we learn the most are from the mistakes we made," said "It allows those mistakes, those experiences to be built up."

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