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NEWS | June 24, 2016

Real world lessons in a virtual environment

By Spc. Adam Parent 220th Public Affairs Detachment

FORT MCCOY, Wis.  – Army Reserve Soldiers from the 339th Military Police Company from Davenport, Iowa, and from the 138th MP Detachment out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, spent their morning practicing battle-drills with the Dismounted Soldier Training System (DSTS) at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, as part of Operation Guardian Justice.

The DSTS uses virtual reality technology to fully immerse Soldiers in as realistic a setting as possible. After donning helmets with video screens, placing motion sensors on their bodies, and calibrating their weapons, the Soldiers were eager to begin training.

The virtual world the Soldiers trained in presented many challenges from learning how to move effectively in a computer-generated environment to fighting enemy combatants in an urban setting.

“One thing they can do here is learn that if something does not work in the virtual environment, to not do that in the real world,” said Rance Clark, the primary technician for the DSTS at Fort McCoy.

Clark makes sure the hardware that powers the DSTS runs smoothly and helps Soldiers equip the gear they must wear while using the DSTS. He can also directly control the enemy forces in the virtual world if he thinks the Soldiers need more of a challenge than what the simulation's artificial intelligence offers.

The DSTS is a great resource for Soldiers in the Army Reserve who must complete a lot of training in a short period of time. In just a few hours Soldiers can complete multiple virtual missions, and they can apply what they learn in subsequent real world missions.

“Not everybody can get live rounds or blank rounds, and an actual training facility or site to do some training,” said Staff Sgt. Carlos AdaCruz-Addison with the 138th MP Detachment out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “This is where you can get your whole unit in, and do some training that would basically mimic what you would see overseas to actually get some real world mission training done.”

The value in the virtual reality training is not only evident in what Soldiers learn, but also in the cost to the Army Reserve.

“Whereas technology will never be a replacement for real world training, I see this technology being able to save the Army a lot of money,” said Spc. Kevin Taylor of the 339th MP Company from Davenport, Iowa.

With the virtual training offered by the DSTS at their disposal, the Soldiers training at Fort McCoy this summer will be better prepared for real world challenges.