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Cavalry Scouts Enter The Virtual Battlefield Arena
by California National Guard Master Sgt. Paul Wade - July 5, 2015

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FORT HUNTER-LIGGETT, Calif. - The U.S. Army's Dismounted Soldier Training System located on Fort Hunter Liggett is located off the beaten path and in a building that could be in an episode of Storage Wars. Inside, however, sits more than a half million dollars of the latest virtual war gaming gadgetry.

During their annual training on June 11, 2015, three cavalry scouts from the California National Guard's Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 18th Cavalry Regiment, based out of Ontario, walked in and Joe Ping, the supervisor for the U.S. Army Reserve base's Training Aids, Devices, Simulation & Simulators facility, got them started on the Call for Fire program.

Sgt. Samuel Crook, a freelance web designer, Capt. Josiah Faber, a L.A. County Deputy Sheriff, and Spc. Nefftali Guillen, maintenance technician for Toyota, are suited up to take on 3D battles in the virtual world of the Dismounted Soldier Training System located at Fort Hunter Liggett. While at annual training, June 6-20, 2015, these Scouts with Troop A, 1st Squadron, 18th Cavalry Regiment, California Army National Guard, got a chance to enter a battlefield arena unlike any other they have encountered. The $500,000 U.S. Army video game has dozens of scenarios built in its program from real-world experiences troops have come up against on their deployments. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Paul Wade)
Sgt. Samuel Crook, a freelance web designer, Capt. Josiah Faber, a L.A. County Deputy Sheriff, and Spc. Nefftali Guillen, maintenance technician for Toyota, are suited up to take on 3D battles in the virtual world of the Dismounted Soldier Training System located at Fort Hunter Liggett. While at annual training, June 6-20, 2015, these Scouts with Troop A, 1st Squadron, 18th Cavalry Regiment, California Army National Guard, got a chance to enter a battlefield arena unlike any other they have encountered. The $500,000 U.S. Army video game has dozens of scenarios built in its program from real-world experiences troops have come up against on their deployments. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Paul Wade)

“As scouts this is a significant part of what we do so any chance to practice this skill is a good thing,” said Capt. Josiah Faber, the incoming commander, as he peered through binoculars at a projected battlefield on a wall screen. “We find the enemy, report it and strike when we can and retrograde out of there.”

Each Soldier drew up a range card, plotted their points using a map and protractor and called in their fire mission.

“Enemy vehicle in the open,” shouted Spc. Nefftali Guillen, a maintenance technician for Toyota when not sneaking and peeking around for the enemy in the woods.

“Send it,” said the Call for Fire instructor. Guillen timidly rambles off coordinates, which are entered and the instructor pushes the fire button.

“Splash over,” said the instructor finishing the sequence. The artillery round struck the ground near the target but did little damage.

Guillen quickly learned his mistake, made a slight correction and called in death from above.

“Fire for effect.”

“Target destroyed,” said the instructor as the three scouts, staring at seven black plumes of smoke on the screen, admired their virtual dirty work.

“Way better than the classroom instruction,” said Guillen, as his team exited the simulator. “To be able to see the results and make on the spot corrections helps make the entire [call for fire] process clearer."

“What is that and can we have a go?” asked Faber staring at the DSTS like a kid spotting a new video game at the arcade.

In the most basics terms the DSTS is a system you wear that turns you into an avatar on a virtual battlefield. After strapping on a helmet, goggles, earphones, a computer backpack, and motion sensors on your arms, legs and shooting finger, you then grab a real looking play gun and stand on a padded foam circle to begin a scenario.

According to Joe, the DSTS has around 20 scenarios based on what Soldiers have faced during a deployment and he can custom build one to fit a unit's need. The gaming tool isn't just for combat arms troops. With its React to IED setting it can test the nerves of motor transport operators during a convoy and those who conduct presence patrols.

“Let's go with the Defend the [Forward Operating Base] scenario,” said Sgt. Samuel Crook. “That way we get more action.”

Once suited up and looking like extras on the set of “Starship Troopers,” the three men lowered their visors and were virtually transported thousands of miles away to a desert-colored walled fortress in Afghanistan. Joe puts them through a few drills to help them understand their movements and weapon system and then the battle began.

Triggers were pulled. They spun and took a knee a few times. The sounds of battle echoed in the warehouse from mounted speakers. Muffled curses were heard and a look of deep concentration was etched on each face. Enemy fighters dropped but each wave of attack got harder. Their avatars died. A lot. Joe watched the carnage from his command center.

“The FOB scenario is actually meant for three squads, not three people,” Joe said. “I have the AI setting on low but it doesn't matter. If a unit brings enough troops one squad can go against another eliminating the need for the AI. The [opposition force] gets really tough then because they know what you know.”

By California National Guard Master Sgt. Paul Wade
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2015

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