Guard, Reserve Employers See Cutting-Edge Simulator
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
FORT KNOX, Ky., Nov. 17, 2005 Civilian employers of National Guard and military Reserve personnel got to see and experience a new simulator here Nov. 16 that put them in one of the most common, and possibly dangerous, situations deployed servicemembers face -- a convoy through Baghdad.
Ruth Samartic, director of homeless assistance programs at the U.S. Department of Labor, acts as the vehicle driver on the Virtual Convoy Trainer while Sgt. 1st Class Montgomery Blevins, observer/controller for the simulation center, helps her and Thomas Murphy, a D.C. Employee Support for the Guard and Reserve committee member, acts as the truck commander Nov. 16 at Fort Knox, Ky. The ESGR Bosslift program was visiting Fort Knox to observe military training and give employers of National Guard and Reserve personnel a better understanding of the military. Photo by Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The employers, who are participating in the "Bosslift" program with the District of Columbia Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, saw the "virtual convoy trainer," one of the newest training devices soldiers have to prepare them for deployments.
The trainer is a simulator that allows soldiers to be the driver, gunner or truck commander in a convoy vehicle. It teaches soldiers troop-leading procedures and how to react to ambushes, convoys and improvised explosive devices, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Montgomery Blevins, an observer/controller at the simulation center.
"It gives them an idea of what is going to happen when they go out to the field to actually do the training," Blevins said.
The simulator is valuable because it gives soldiers who have never operated in a convoy a basic idea of what to expect before they are thrown into the real thing, Blevins said.
"It doesn't matter whether you're an infantryman or a medic or a (personnel) specialist -- if you have to deploy anywhere in the world to conduct combat operations, you're going to have to drive," he said.
Fort Knox is the only installation to have the simulator, and several National Guard units have purchased it for training, Blevins said. Right now the simulator has only one database -- the Baghdad database -- but more are being developed, he said.
The database in the simulator was developed from lessons learned in Iraq and from topographical maps of Baghdad, said Aaron Lumley, exercise controller for the virtual convoy trainer. The simulator is designed so the experience is the same as it would be in actual vehicles, Lumley said.
"If the soldier can do it in here, he can do it in the real vehicle," he said.
The employers were given a chance to try out the simulator and get a feel for what the soldiers do during training. Not many people know that this technology is available to soldiers, Blevins said, so it's important to have this kind of exposure, especially to people who work directly with National Guard and Reserve employees.
One of the employers agreed, saying that she didn't realize how much technology was used in training soldiers.
"We tend to think, 'Oh, they're marching around carrying guns out there and shooting at everything that moves,'" said Ruth Samartic, director of homeless assistance programs at the U.S. Department of Labor. "But, today's military is extremely high-tech."
Samartic, who works with the Veterans' Employment and Training Service, said she has always valued the military, but this trip is making her more aware of the type and intensity of training they do. She said it has affirmed her commitment to ensure veterans get the value and consideration they deserve in the workplace.
Bosslift brings civilian employers of National Guard and Reserve personnel to military installations to observe training and gain a better understanding of what their employees do in their military capacity, said Felix V. Broughton, state chairman of the D.C. Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
All employers have to guarantee National Guard and Reserve employees certain rights and protections by law, but this trip helps to solidify the employers' relationship with the military and helps them appreciate their employees' service, Broughton said.
"The value is it puts an image -- an indelible mark -- in their mind on what exactly it is that these men and women are doing," he said.
Sixteen employers are on this trip, including accountants, lawyers, business owners and chief executive officers, Broughton said. These employers have already shown their support by coming on this trip, he said, but the goal is for them to go back and share what they've learned.
"We're asking them to be ambassadors for us and spread the word amongst their colleagues and their constituents," he said.
There is one Bosslift trip every fiscal year, and employers can be nominated by their National Guard/Reserve employees or by ESGR committee members, Broughton said.
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is a Defense Department volunteer organization that works with civilian employers of National Guard and Reserve servicemembers. ESGR's goal is to support America's employers who share their employees with the nation to ensure our national security, Broughton said.