Operation Cold Steel Soldiers prepare for live-fire ops with VBS3 training

By Scott Sturkol | Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office | April 28, 2017

April 27, 2017 — Team members with Fort McCoy’s Virtual Battle Space 3 (VBS3) simulation facility played a direct role in training during the Operation Cold Steel exercise in March and April through use of the Mounted Machine Gun Trainer Plug-in Vehicle Crew Evaluator software program.

Operation Cold Steel is the Army Reserve’s first large-scale live-fire training and crew-served weapons qualification and validation exercise that took place from March 9 through April 25.

According to the Reserve, the exercise is crucial to ensure ensure “that America’s Army Reserve units and Soldiers are trained and ready to deploy on short notice and bring combat-ready and lethal firepower in support of the Total Army Force and Joint Force partners around the world.”

The VBS3 software program used to support training allowed hundreds of Soldiers to see Fort McCoy ranges in virtual reality and helped each of the three-person gunnery crews practice for their actual range missions, said Mike Latour, senior consultant and trainer with contractor Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., which supports the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security’s (DPTMS) VBS3 facility.

“The program is great because it allows (the crew) to see what it’s like to be in their vehicles, see how to choose their targets, and helps them understand the scoring they will have during actual live-fire sessions,” Latour said.

Operation Cold Steel gunnery crews first completed their training on the system in building 222, then would go through live-fire training to further build their skills. The crews then would return to train on the system at Range 26 before going on to complete more live-fire training.

“The difference I’d see, just in communication, among crews that were first starting and working with us in 222, and then later at Range 26, was incredible,” Latour said.

“Some of these crews were put together right before they arrived here for Cold Steel, and they had to work really hard at their communication skills to be successful. I think their ability to come in and practice on the software program was a big help.”

Rob Miller, a virtual training integrator with Booze Allen Hamilton who also supported Cold Steel training, said the Army Training and Doctrine Command-developed program helped the crews build their skills one step at a time.

“This goes back to the idea of the crawl-walk-run phase where at each step of their team-building as a gunnery crew, they are able to continuously improve,” Miller said. “This simulation training served as a crucial piece for these crews to practice their skills and improve.”

Latour said his team would train, on average, 26 crews a day during the course of the exercise — 13 at building 222 and 13 at Range 26.

“The beauty of this VBS3 software is that it’s mobile and allowed us to train people in two locations,” Latour said. “I think that helped us get more people trained faster.”

Staff Sgt. Benjamin Laurent, a vehicle commander on a crew with the 346th Psychological Operations Company at Columbus, Ohio, said his gunnery crew appreciated the ability to practice their skills on the software program.

“The best thing was it gave us a chance to have additional (opportunities) to practice our calls as a crew,” Laurent said. “We all know we can shoot well, but we knew we needed to work on communication, and this was a great way to practice those verbal commands.”

Training Support Officer Rob Weisbrod with DPTMS said the VBS3 program is one of numerous simulation training platforms available at Fort McCoy that allows those service members who are training on post to get the most out of their training experience.

“The VBS3 training, as an example, allows units to integrate training strategies into any exercise or training event,” Weisbrod said.
“And this is important because it allows training (service members) to rehearse missions, enhance their abilities, make mistakes, and continually get better.”

Latour said similar VBS3 training will be held in the Combat Support Training Exercise and the Warrior Exercise later this year at Fort McCoy.

“We’ll be set up right at some of the tactical training bases,” he said.