Soldiers’ Knowledge Drives Army’s Development of Mixed Reality Training System


On a mid-August afternoon in central Texas, soldiers in combat uniforms gather, preparing to engage in realistic battlefield training.

With outside temperatures approaching the 90s, one would expect the upcoming exercise, set in the middle of a flat, dusty expanse at Fort Hood, to border on sweltering heat.

Instead, this particular group of soldiers train inside the walls of the station’s Close Combat Tactical Training Center, surrounded by the constant hum of computers and a reliable stream of cool air conditioning.

The center, which facilitates state-of-the-art virtual collective training for warfighters, is hosting approximately 150 soldiers from Fort Bliss, Texas and Fort Carson, Colorado, this month as part of an operational assessment conducted by the U.S. Army Test and Order Evaluation.

Approximately 150 soldiers from installations in Texas and Colorado are participating in the Synthetic Training Environment Information System and Reconfigurable Virtual Collective Trainer Operational Evaluation at Fort Hood, Texas in August. The multi-week event is led by the US Army Test and Evaluation Command’s Operational Test Command (OTC), which adheres to the motto “Truth in Testing”. Data collected during the assessment will inform Army decision making; “These data are important to the success of this system,” said Major Raquel Jimenez of the OTC’s Mission Command Test Directorate.

The purpose of the assessment is to understand how soldiers interact with the latest software and hardware iterations of the Army Synthetic Training Environment, or STE, a capability that blends virtual, live, and collective training elements. to produce an immersive experience that is nimble and nimble. minimizes the use of live firepower and other typically expensive, single-use training resources.

Ongoing analysis at the event focuses on two elements of the broader STE, the Information System, abbreviated STE-IS, and the Reconfigurable Virtual Collective Trainer, or RVCT.

The STE-IS is an intelligent suite of simulation and training management software that supports intuitive access and simultaneous training across multiple sites. The STE-IS also includes One World Terrain, a 3D mapping dataset that allows training coordinators to integrate real world terrain images.

The RVCT is a highly adaptable hardware system that connects to the STE-IS to enable collective training scenarios in mixed reality. The RVCT consists of interactive, high-tech equipment – ​​including a heads-up display, high-resolution monitor and representational controllers – that allow soldiers, squads, platoons and companies to navigate exercises using real and computer generated movements.

Army Photograph by Anthony Sualog
sergeant. Adrian Ceballos, left, and other soldiers perform dismounted maneuvers using individual laptops as part of a collective training exercise during Operational Training Environment Assessment synthetic at Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 17, 2022.

The family of RVCT systems powered by STE-IS is capable of replicating key aero and ground platforms; the Fort Hood event is focused on RVCT ground models that can replicate Abrams, Bradley, and Stryker combat vehicles, as well as dismounted infantry.

sergeant. Adrian Ceballos, who traveled to Colorado’s STE-IS and RVCT assessment, said he was “quite surprised and overwhelmed” by the advances in training technology.

“It’s pretty accurate, for what the details are,” he said.

“I didn’t think we were that far ahead.”

Ceballos sees STE prototypes and the increased training options they provide as playing a beneficial role in assessing and improving soldier knowledge, capability, and readiness.

In addition to testing new equipment, soldiers like Ceballos provide critical feedback and data to STE development teams on the usefulness of existing software and hardware and how it could be modified to represent in-person combat with greater realism.

Army Photograph by Anthony Sualog
Spec. Hunter Buss, right, pictured in Fort Hood, Texas on August 17, 2022, provided feedback on the disassembled functionality of the Reconfigurable Virtual Collective Trainer, noting that the ability to train precise formations on screen could improve verisimilitude from the program.

Soldiers participating in the evaluation readily offer ideas on how to improve current systems, such as varying the volume of sound effects and making simulated movements smoother.

Spec. Fort Bliss’ Hunter Buss noted that avatars’ on-screen movements sometimes felt “glitchy”, but that the ability to virtually see and navigate different terrain was helpful.

Early insights from the Soldier Feedback process have been shared with Army leaders, including Lt. Gen. Maria R. Gervais, Deputy Commanding General and Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, during a day visit held at the Close Combat Training Center on August 17, 2022.

Colonel Cory Berg, soldier training project manager at the U.S. Army’s Program Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation Executive Office, or PEO STRI, explained during the program that part of the uniqueness of the STE lies in its ability to “capitalize on the equipment and capabilities available in common”. ”

Col. Nick Kioutas, Synthetic Environment Project Manager at PEO STRI, emphasized that the military “will also be able to leverage new in-game technologies” as it advances the STE with the help of partners. Of the industry.

“Agile means we are constantly pivoting to get what the soldier needs,” Kioutas said, stressing the importance of being able to adjust versatile ETS systems with agility to meet rapidly changing operational and training requirements.

“We want to continue to evolve this as we move forward,” said Col. Mike McCarthy of the STE Cross-Functional Team, an Army Futures Command modernization accelerator that helps the Army define and coordinate requirements. ST.

Army Photograph by Anthony Sualog
Brig. Gen. William R. Glaser, director of the Synthetic Training Environment (STE) Cross-Functional Team, speaks with soldiers participating in an STE Operational Evaluation at Fort Hood, Texas. Glaser and other Army leaders participated in a Distinguished Visitors Day at Fort Hood on Aug. 17, 2022, which included the opportunity to observe the evaluation in action and receive an overview of the Army schedule for the finalization and commissioning of STE prototype systems.

McCarthy highlighted how the STE’s intentional use of a modular open systems approach helped maximize the ease of use, efficiency and adaptability of the equipment being developed.

Also present at the event was Brig. General William R. Glaser, director of the cross-functional STE team, who saw clear benefits in documenting feedback and suggestions from soldiers trying out the nascent equipment.

He explained that the cross-functional STE team provides abbreviated capability development documents and capabilities and limitations reports to the operational assessment teams to guide them while simultaneously confirming the accuracy and feasibility of the described requirements.

“It’s an ongoing effort,” Glaser said, adding that the collaborative assessment provides an invaluable opportunity for Army modernization and training stakeholders to “check our math and make sure that we are going in the right direction”.


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