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NEWS | Feb. 24, 2021

Soldiers hone skills in virtual sandbox

By Cheryl Phillips 88th Readiness Division

Soldiers from the 388th Chemical Company based in Junction City, Wis., spent their Battle Assembly on Feb. 20-21, 2021, improving their skills virtually on simulators here.

One of the simulators was the Engagement Skills Trainer 2 which trained the Soldiers on the basics of the new M16 rifle qualification. Soldiers familiarized themselves with various positions when firing.

The Army now mandates that every Soldier conducts at least six hours of marksmanship simulation training prior to qualification.

By using the EST, Soldiers can learn “what they’re doing right…and what bad habits they’re using that are negatively impacting their ability to qualify prior to going to the range," said John Kumpf, senior simulation specialist with the Fort McCoy Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.

The EST can also create and run combat scenarios to train fire teams on how to conduct ambushes, movement to contact, raids and any other scenario their command or NCOs want to run them through. Military Police even have their own Escalation of Force program within the EST to train them on deadly force and tactics, techniques and procedures.

388th Chemical Company crews honed their skills on Virtual Battle Space 3 simulators. “VBS3 is the unit’s virtual sandbox to conduct mission rehearsals prior to moving a vehicle from the motor pool to down range,” Kumpf said.

The crews could conduct after action reviews immediately after concluding scenarios to make improvements. “The crews can easily make corrections without expending training funds, bullets, fuel and time to conduct exercises,” Kumpf said.

An added benefit is that “we’re mobile and can take the VBS3 to units for Mobile Training Team support,” said Dale Waggoner, a senior consultant supporting virtual training here. Units can call on us and we’ll be there at no cost to the units. That’s a big plus for the Army Reserve with limited resources.”

Waggoner cautioned that VBS3 doesn’t replace live fire, “but it gives units an edge.”

Spc. Michael Schaefer, a 74D chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist with the unit, was the vehicle commander of his crew using the VBS3. He said the system “helps Soldiers get familiar with commands and what they’re going to be seeing in the field.”

Schaefer used the simulator about two or three years ago. “It was really nice to get my hands on it again,” he said. He said he was able to become more proficient after running through a few scenarios.

One of the things the simulator revealed to Schaefer was “how speedy I have to be with the commands. I realize I’ve been a little bit slower since I haven’t done this for so long.” He used to be a gunner prior to becoming a vehicle commander.

Schaefer pointed out the value of using VBS3 before going to the range for live fire. “Before going live it’s very nice to use because then people can get the commands down right away so they’re not out there shooting and then get stuck with something and they don’t know what to do and they panic,” he said. “This helps alleviate some of that pain and panic so people are more comfortable with the systems.”

VBS3 trains units and individuals on TTPs, convoy operations, communication techniques, mounted and unmounted navigation and map reading, movement to contact, improvised explosive device defeat, battle drills, command post operations, gunnery and more in the virtual world. Scenarios include conduct actions at danger area, conduct logistics package support, enforce rules of engagement, establish a perimeter defense, emplace a dry support bridge and conduct ambulance shuttle operations.