‘Wolfpack’ uses VRTC, preps to deploy

| February 22, 2013 | 0 Comments
Spc. Joshua Mead, a combat engineer in 2nd Plt., 95th Eng. (Clearance) Co., 65th Eng. Bn. (Combat Effects), 130th Eng. Bde., 8th TSC, operates a pneumatic .50 caliber machine gun simulator at the Virtual Route Clearance Trainer, as his company prepares for an upcoming deployment.  As he moves his head, his goggles adjust and display the three-dimensional simulation accordingly.

Spc. Joshua Mead, a combat engineer in 2nd Plt., 95th Eng. (Clearance) Co., 65th Eng. Bn. (Combat Effects), 130th Eng. Bde., 8th TSC, operates a pneumatic .50 caliber machine gun simulator at the Virtual Route Clearance Trainer, as his company prepares for an upcoming deployment.
As he moves his head, his goggles adjust and display the three-dimensional simulation accordingly.

Story and photo by 1st Lt. Kyle Suchomski
95th Engineer (Clearance) Company,
65th Eng. Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade,
8th Theater Sustainment Command

Route clearance in Afghanistan is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous and difficult jobs in the Army.

The 95th Engineer (Clearance) Company, 65th Eng. Battalion (Combat Effects), 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, returned from Afghanistan’s Helmand province in August, and since then has been preparing for its nextdeployment.

“You know, route clearance in Afghanistan is a lot like going to the moon,” said Sgt. Kevin Robinson, team leader, 2nd Platoon, 95th Eng. Co., who is looking forward to the unit’s next deployment. “Just because you’ve been there once doesn’t make it any less exciting the next time, though.”

In addition to squad- and platoon-level field training exercises, the “Wolfpack” company uses the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii’s Virtual Route Clearance Trainer (VRCT) to hone its route clearance skills.

“The virtual trainer allows our platoons to run route clearance patrols with minimal strain on operational and fiscal resources,” said 1st Lt.

Chris Rivers, executive officer with the 95th. “We can refresh and refine our tactics, techniques and procedures without considerations, such as fuel, land, ammunition and the risk of training accidents. Overall, the VRTC has been our primary and most viable training facility, and it has helped us transition from reset and get onto the road to war.”

The VRTC was brought to Schofield Barracks to support elements of 65th Eng. Bn., slated to deploy to Afghanistan, where the unit will conduct route clearance and other combat engineering operations.

Much like a flight simulator, the VRCT affords Wolfpack warriors an opportunity to practice inside a fully immersive, three-dimensional route clearance simulation.

Drivers and truck commanders control a dashboard replication of an actual mine-resistant armor plating vehicle. This replication allows Soldiers the opportunity to run through a number of specific pre-mission checks and inspections, and enhances the simulation’s realism.

Soldiers can also communicate with other operators in the simulation via headsets, and they can call reports to higher echelons through simulation moderators.

Gunners wear goggles that display the simulated training scenario as they load and operate a pneumatic .50 caliber machine gun trainer. When the gunners turn their heads left or right, the goggles react accordingly, changing the display to reflect what they would see.

“The simulation is a pretty good training aid, because it’s a good refresher on the basics,” said combat engineer Spc. Robert Munguia, 2nd Platoon, comparing his experience as a driver in Afghanistan to his training with the VRTC. “But there’s nothing like looking for IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in 100-degree heat. That’s just too impossible to simulate.”

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