Innovation! Vision! Initiative!
Those are the reasons Lt. Col. Marcus Mainz envisioned the
Tactical Decision Kit, or TDK.
The Marine Corps Rapid
Capabilities Office, in collaboration with the Office of Naval
Research, developed the TDK which uses technology that allows
Marines and Sailors to train virtually on or off duty, and test
their decision-making skills from the barracks.
2017, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Glenn M. Walters
directed the RCO to rapidly replicate the small unit decision-making
capability conceived by Mainz and other Marines in conjunction with
November 17, 2016 - A Marine uses Virtual Battle Space 3 in Camp Lejeune, North
Carolina. VBS 3 is part of the Tactical Decision Kit developed
jointly by Marine Corps Systems Command, the Marine Corps
Warfighting Lab’s Rapid Capabilities Office and the Office of Naval
Research. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C.
“After the ACMC said he wanted Marines to innovate, I
knew there had to be something we could do to make a huge
impact,” said Mainz, commander of 2nd Battalion 6th Marines
at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. “We needed a solution to
help current and future Marines become the best thinkers,
planners, decision-makers, teachers and trainers.”
Mainz repurposed Corps’ resources, gathered ideas from
Marines, and settled on a goal to create new ways to help
Marines work on their decision-making skills.
“Mainz performed a mission analysis of what defined the success of
his battalion,” said Col. Walter Yates, program manager for Training
Systems at MCSC. “He said it boiled down to the basic elements of
accomplishing the mission—whatever the mission might be—and bringing
his Marines home from the fight alive and well. Mainz wanted to
develop the Marines of 2/6 to become the best tactical
decision-makers in the world.”
Mainz said he wanted to create
an environment where Marines could master cognitive and warfighting
skills from the comfort of the barracks.
“It was great to
have the freedom and support from our leadership to be innovative,”
he said. “The TDK isn’t just a bank of computers. It’s a new way of
thinking with many possibilities.”
In 2016, under Mainz’s
guidance, 2/6 barracks recreation rooms with extra space and unused
pool tables were turned into decision-making rooms using laptop
computers commercial and government software and hardware along with
multiple computer-based training systems.
The TDK includes
high-performance laptop computers equipped with twice the amount of
memory as a typical laptop, a rapid central processing unit, a
graphics adapter and high-resolution display with incredibly
life-like graphics, Yates said.
Marines can use this
computing hardware to enhance rapid decision making, employ a
competitive training environment that was not previously available,
provide hands-on force-on-force training to allow them to operate
against a thinking enemy and improve tactical decisiveness in any
environment. The TDK includes:
Augmented Reality: The
augmented reality system allows Marines to visualize a variety of
terrain to aid in their mission planning and real-time
decision-making skills. It enables a group of Marines to conduct
virtual briefs and terrain walks while interacting with other
Marines in the same virtual environment.
Virtual Battle Space
3: A first-person shooter simulation from the viewpoint of the
player that places the Marine in squad- and platoon-level
force-on-force scenarios. VBS3 requires Marines to think tactically,
make decisions, and communicate with subordinates and adjacent units
in a complex, competitive environment using a range of supporting
Interactive Tactical Decision Game 5: The ITDG 5
system allows the users to create and execute in-depth, customizable
TDGs that show second- and third-order effects of decisions. This
enhances Marines’ abilities to create after-action reports, debriefs
and digital sand table exercises, among other uses.
is designed to augment the regimented and cyclic training the Marine
Corps conducts to maintain deployment cycles and the capability to
respond to crisis or conflict in any climb or place,” said Capt.
Ryan Steenberge, project manager of the TDK with the Rapid
Capabilities Office at MCWL. “TDK helps Marines work on their
operations planning, decision-making skills and tactical training.
They plan, execute and then debrief to improve their strategies.”
With the TDK, Marines use tools such as drones to perform
reconnaissance of the virtual battlespace and gather imagery data
they can transform into a terrain model. They view the model using a
3D virtual reality headset and develop the warfighting plan within
this environment. Once the plan is formulated and briefed, Marines
rehearse the execution of the plan using the networked Deployable
Virtual Training Environment software from MCSC’s TRASYS. They can
virtually fight each other or on teams against enemy forces using
different scenarios and environments.
The system saves the
game, and commanders can use the scenarios to train their Marines in
similar environments using immersive training systems such as the
Instrumented Tactical Engagement Simulation System (also fielded
through TRASYS). ITESS is a deployable training capability that uses
lasers and sensors on Marines’ weapons, helmets and uniforms to
replicate the stresses and threats of combat. The Marines engage the
enemy with weapons and simulated artillery, executing decisions they
made using the TDK.
“Marines who are competitive and want to
win will practice using the TDK equipment because it’s readily
available in the barracks, and they enhance their operational and
tactical skills,” said Yates. “When they go to the field to apply
what they’ve learned, they maneuver very quickly and aggressively
perform reconnaissance; they find opportunities, and they locate and
close with the enemy. Training in a simulated environment gives you
a synthetic experience that results in real, measurable skills, and
in most cases, it’s more cost effective, safer and more accessible.”
TDK deliveries to Marine Corps infantry battalions began in May
2017 and will conclude in October 2018. MCSC provides expertise and
personnel to the RCO, including a project manager, engineer,
contracting officer, legal counsel and a logistician, who support
the director of the RCO to rapidly field the TDK to infantry
battalions across the Marine Expeditionary Forces. The ONR will
continue to gather integration, training and operational data from
each infantry battalion through January 2018.
aspects of field training that can never be replicated in a
non-field environment, so the TDK is used to supplement and enhance,
not replace, regular training,” said Steenberge. “In the Marine
Corps, we like to say we’re the best maneuverers and thinkers out
there. The commandant has a huge drive to make every Marine a
decision-maker, and the TDK offers that opportunity.”
Corps moves forward with the TDK, it will transition to a program of
record under PM TRASYS, Yates said.
By U.S. Marine Corps Ashley Calingo, MCSC
The U.S. Marines
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