Today, military-themed video game dialogues have a distinct likeness to real world battlefields. Video games like Call of Duty, SOCOM Navy Seals and Delta Force have given society an in depth look into modern warfare.These games are designed to provide users with a realistic depiction of combat, illustrating every detail; including weapon systems, infantry tactics, and modern cities. Using the same attention to detail, the Marine Corps has implemented virtual simulation as a form of education.
The Marine Corps has taken notice to the benefits of using virtual training environments as a means to both teach and train Marines for deployment operations.
According to Maj. Brian Kibel, the modeling and simulation officer for Training and Education Command (TECOM), the Marine Corps has implemented 10 different systems throughout the Corps.
The training systems have broadened the abilities of the Fleet Marine Forces (FMF), stretching the gamete of operations for both ground combat and aviation elements.
With system developments like the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer and the Deployable Virtual Training Environment, the Corps has expanded its ability to offer safe and realistic training for yearly training and pre-deployment operations.
The ISMT, which is an interactive audio-video weapons simulator, provides Marines the capability to conduct standards-based training in basic and advanced marksmanship. Since marksmanship is a yearly training requirement, for most units, this method of training conserves resources as well as saves time.
“Virtual environments are being incorporated in the daily training schedules of most units,” Kibel said. “They conserve training resources, such as ammunition and fuel, and are more efficient in time. Training performed in a simulated environment can be performed, reviewed, and corrected many times in comparison to a live exercise.”
Most Marines agree the Corps needs to continue to implement additional virtual training environments as a tool to learn basic Marine skills.
“Simulation training is great for familiarization,” said Cpl. Daniel Rhodes, training chief for Guard Company, Marine Barracks Washington. “They serve as a perfect environment for learning fundamentals.”
With the Marine Corps currently engaged in war in Afghanistan, virtual training environments have also proven to be invaluable resources for preparing Marines for combat deployments.
The Deployable Virtual Training Environment is a computer-based program that allows Marines to simulate a synthetic natural environment and engage in virtual combat scenarios. The system allows Marines to practice scenarios such as convoy operations, calling in fire missions, and military operations urban terrain (MOUT) training.
“These types of technologies have given the ground fighters an advantage in combat,” Kibel said. “By providing Marines with computer-based teaching resources, we have increased the individual awareness of Marines and prepared them for situations they will likely face while in combat.”
Virtual training environments have also been expanded into military aviation. Marine aviation officers can now conduct flight operations by utilizing flight simulators for both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft.
Flight simulators, such as the KC-130J and the AV-8B simulator, provide pilots an enclosed training environment that has a 360 degree video projection system, displaying satellite images of the local area.
The simulator allows the pilots to practice flying in many different circumstances. Pilots can use the simulator to learn flight patterns, how to handle in-flight emergencies and can even simulate poor weather conditions. For the pilots, the simulators have proven to be an invaluable resource.
“With the simulators, we are able to practice our procedures over and over again so that they almost become second nature,” said Capt. Chris Tchinski, an AV-8 Harrier pilot stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
“Simulators allow us to experience almost any scenario that we might encounter in the real world, and make the mistakes associated with those scenarios without putting lives at risk.”
Tchinski said flight simulators are absolutely vital to the success of the Marine Corps, and will become more so in the future.
Although the virtual training environments are mainly being used to train Marines, they are also being used to treat Marines who return from combat.
Since 2006, the Marine Corps and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University have conducted tests on service members to determine what effect combat has on individual Marines.
The technology has allowed doctors to use a virtual reality system to duplicate the experience that each service member encountered while in combat.
For example, if a Marine was injured by a roadside improvised explosive device (IED), they would reproduce the scenario using sights, sounds and smells that were similar to what the service member had experienced. Doctors then observe how the service members react to the stimuli and record the results.
The results of the tests have given doctors hope that this form of technology will better enable them to understand and treat combat injuries, including Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“Preliminary results of ongoing studies using virtual reality exposure therapy to treat combat-related post traumatic stress disorder are promising,” said Maryrose Gerardi, the assistant professor of Psychiatry at Emory University. “We hope that this technology may offer a form of treatment which is both familiar and acceptable to Marines.”
With technology shaping the way in which service members fight on the battlefield today, one can only imagine the possibilities that lie ahead for the future.
“The Marine Corps at its present strength of 202,000 active duty personnel is expanding its use of virtual and constructive simulation based training,” said Capt. Geraldine Carey, the public affairs officer for Marine Corps Systems Command. “The Marine Corps will continue to incorporate additional simulated training assets to prepare our Marines for whatever they may encounter, both now and in the future.”