FORT LEE, Va. (July 28, 2011) -- Pvt. Louis Green, Spc. Josette Whorton, Pfc. Ralph Hyppolite, Spc. Alana Grant and Spc. Emanuel Olowu had all just travelled through the dangerous streets of Iraq, where their Humvee was attacked several times by insurgents.
And yet they were excited to the point of wanting to do it again.
"It was awesome," said Olowu, who like the others are assigned to Mike Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade. "Everything was perfect."
Olowu was referring to the realism he and fellow Soldiers experienced in the virtual environment of Fort Lee's newest combat simulation training aid, the Reconfigurable Vehicle Tactical Trainer. He and about 30 of his fellow Soldiers from Mike Co. christened the RVTT when it opened for business July 19. It is housed in the old Warrior Training Center (building 6235), which has undergone extensive renovations and features eight separate vehicle trainers.
The RVTT consists of stationary Humvees that mimic the real thing using sound effects and hydraulics. It also can be reconfigured to a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck and comes complete with tactical radio, navigational systems and individual and crew-served weapons.
In addition to the vehicle itself, the facility employs buildable scenarios and depicts those scenarios on a 360-degree floor-to-ceiling screen that immerses the crew, putting them smack in the middle of a convoy or similar mission.
"Compared to the training we had in basic training, this was more realistic," said Olowu, "and it made me realize what Soldiers go through in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. It's just real."
H. Bryan I. Holtman, chief, Training Division, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, said the RVTTs have been installed in training facilities Army-wide, but Fort Lee has a unique setup in comparison to the other facilities.
"Fort Lee leads the way with this system that we have installed right now," he said. "There is no other installation that has two sets of trainers with two AAR rooms in the same building."
That means that a platoon-sized element can train on convoy procedures simultaneously and review missions immediately following their iteration in after-action review rooms located down the hall. The monitor-filled enclosures allow unit trainers and four contract facilitators to observe the action in real-time and discuss every detail of the mission afterward through a playback system.
Currently, the system has the capability to run through a four-vehicle convoy because the two sites operate on a stand-alone basis, said Lee Grate, the facility's training coordinator.
"Once they are linked," he said, "we'll be able to execute an eight-vehicle convoy at one time."
Although the system's technical specifications may be considered impressive, the strength of the RVTT is its flexibility. Anthony Menzies, the contractor site lead, said the system's buildable-scenario software affords facilitators the opportunity to work closely with unit trainers to tailor the training to specific unit needs.
"If a captain comes in and says ‘I just want to train my guys on reporting improvised explosive devices.' We can do that," he said. "We can put them on a road in Baghdad, Afghanistan, Korea - wherever they want to go - and line the route with IEDs at specific times so they can execute their reporting procedures."
Menzies added that "basic convoy procedures are basic convoy procedures, but we know that tactics change and the training requirements change with them. So we try to get the unit trainers to come down and give us their input prior to the training so we can build scenarios that suit their needs."
The RVTT may best benefit a group of Soldiers, said Hyppollite, but it is most impressive on an individual level.
"It's a pretty good system," he said. "Going through the training helps you see what you are lacking as a team and as an individual and how your mistakes affect the team. That is pretty helpful."
Only a few Soldiers have undergone training at the facility thus far. Grate said he expects the numbers to increase in no time.
"I expect the throughput to be around 350 military personnel a week," he said.
The RVTT is the latest addition to Fort Lee's electronic simulation training portfolio. It includes three small arms simulation facilities, a 1-30 Call for Fire Trainer and a vehicle rollover simulator called Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer.
Units interested in training on the RVTT should call (804) 734-3218/3536.