Simulated Training Efforts Foster Interoperability, Develop Common Procedures

June 1999
By Michelle L. Hankins

Partnership pursues cost-effective solutions to implement joint force instruction.

Distributed computer simulation training is bringing forces together and trimming instruction costs for North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Partnership for Peace nations. The worldwide military training moves 27 countries toward greater readiness and interoperability and prepares commanders and their staffs for humanitarian and peacekeeping operations.

Countries that would otherwise be unable to provide this level of training because of the high cost now have an alternative to traditional on-site instructional methods. By using commercial technology, militaries can link to training locations in other countries through a network of multinational command posts. The technology allows training that enables them to obtain the knowledge and experience to function optimally in various operations, ranging from peacekeeping to coping with natural disasters.

Exercises scheduled for later this year will be the first full-scale implementation of the simulated training techniques for the participating nations. Sweden will host the exercise, VIKING ’99, starting in late November. Four hubs, each located in Denmark, Finland, Latvia and the host nation, will service the exercise. The program’s trainees will be tasked with maintaining the security of a make-believe island nation that is torn by warring factions. The simulation’s joint operation forces will be responsible for maintaining stability in the wake of a tentative ceasefire and working to further United Nations’ aims in the country.

Simulation technologies being used to train forces were revealed in a demonstration and exhibition held at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 50th anniversary summit in Washington, D.C., this spring.

Capt. David M. Griesmer, USMC, U.S. Atlantic Command, explains that the advantages of the simulated training are seen directly in a cost-benefit analysis. The price tag for training forces is high, usually because of travel expenses involved in transporting troops to various instruction sites. In addition to travel expenses, simulated instruction can eliminate associated costs such as moving soldiers within the field and fueling the necessary equipment for use in the exercises, according to Capt. Griesmer. He predicts that up to a 90 percent reduction in expenses will result from using simulated training instead of traditional training methods.

Capt. Griesmer estimates that a nation can install a training facility for less than $15,000 plus the cost of leasing appropriate lines for Internet and videoconferencing use.

A nation that purchases this minimum amount of equipment can become part of a training network by using the Internet and videoconferencing capabilities. Forces worldwide can train in exercises that would, with traditional training methods, require major funding allocations and disrupt daily operations for specialized training in distant locations.

The technology includes commercial off-the-shelf hardware coupled with specialized software designed in the United States and Sweden. This software provides the capability to tailor various scenarios for training exercises. It can be designed specifically for the intended areas of instruction, which can often be difficult to do in traditional exercises.