ITK sharpens combat skills

29 Nov 2002 | Sgt. Kristen A. Bennett

The Training and Education Command has provided Combat Center Marines with a new training method to assist in the development of combat skills at the Battle Simulation Center here.

The Infantry Tool Kit is a part of a prototype system called the Deployable Virtual Training Environment, a system of laptop computers networked together to run tactical decision-making games in a virtual combat environment.  The DVTE was originally developed to provide training for deployed Marines on ships.

"Shipboard Marines are confined to the berthing area, a small gym and maybe a classroom," said Capt. Arthur Aragon, an infantry officer currently serving as the modeling and simulation officer.  "The Marine Corps wanted to provide them with a training system they could use aboard the ship to keep their minds in the game."

The Battle Simulation Center received the Infantry Tool Kit as a prototype to familiarize fleet Marines with the program for future deployments.  Capt. Aragon said the ITK is a valuable tool for all Marines.

"Every Marine is a rifleman, whether it's rear-area security or force protection," said Aragon.  "The ITK can train non-infantry Marines for when they serve in that capacity."

Most applications used with the ITK are commercial, tactical computer games; a few have been bought by the Marine Corps and given Marine characteristics, weapons, uniforms and equipment.  Each offers a wide variety of tactical situations and the ability to edit scenarios in order to benefit a specific training objective.  Aragon stressed the importance of having a pre-planned training objective before using the system.

"We need to know what the training objective is so we can determine what specific application to use or if a pre-scripted scenario will do," said Aragon.  "Then the platoon sergeant or whoever is in charge of the training can run it themselves while I supervise.  It has to be facilitated; otherwise, it just becomes another computer game."

When editing a specific situation, the training leader can request a specific mission, terrain, time of day, amount of supplies and weapons.  He can also alter the composition of the friendly forces and enemy forces the Marines encounter.  A unique characteristic is the ability to simulate training in actual Marine Corps facilities including the Military Operations on Urban Terrain facility at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and various training areas aboard the Combat Center.

Though the computerized system provides an opportunity to train outside of a field environment, Aragon said it is not meant to replace live-fire or field training.

"It's a way to augment that training and give Marines a system to hone their decision-making skills," said Aragon.  "It doesn't focus on technical skills like land navigation or marksmanship, but we put them in a virtual environment in a tactical situation and force them to make decisions."