Thursday at Fort Campbell, soldiers went running through a virtual environment similar to Iraq or Afghanistan, while never leaving a pad a few feet wide. The post has unveiled the Dismounted Soldier Training System, a program they call the first ever fully immersive virtual simulation training for U.S. soldiers.
"Your adrenaline's going, you're talking to your buddies, you're taking contact," said Staff. Sgt. Kevin Kidder. "It feels like you're really there. The goggles are down close enough to your face that you look to your left, you look to your right, you see your buddies. You're moving. You're holding your weapon against you."
Placing soldiers in a virtual environment with audio including gun shots coming through a speaker in their helmets, every moment is recorded. An avatar does everything the soldier does, allowing for a recording to be played back after training. Fort Campbell officials said the goal is for leaders to be able to see their soldiers' movements and how they react to different situations. From there, they can make improvements.
It's all done in a small space. A toggle switch allows soldiers to move forward in their virtual world.
"Rather than having to take up a football field or more, we can do it in a consolidated area," Kidder said. "We're moving in a few feet of space, but what we're seeing is hundreds of meters."
In that world, soldiers run, walk, crawl, shoot, use compasses, open doors and throw grenades. Post officials called it a look at the future of keeping soldiers highly trained, disciplined and fit.
"I have brand new soldiers straight out of basic training," Kidder said. "Before we have a chance to go out and put everything on, we can come into a simulated area, show them what formations we want."
Fort Campbell officials said the Marines are now looking at taking the Dismounted Training System on ships. The training would allow soldiers to do their training before they arrive in an area.
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