European garrisons protecting Army communities with virtual training

GRAFENWOEHR, Ger­many — In Decem­ber, the Unit­ed States Army Gar­ri­son Grafen­woehr teamed-up with the Joint Multi­na­tion­al Train­ing Command’s Sim­u­la­tion Cen­ter to host the garrison’s annu­al force pro­tec­tion exer­cise.

 The Joint Multinational Training Command's Simulation Center spent several months modeling U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, Germany, into a simulation that garrison first-responders could interact with through the Army's tactical gaming software
The Joint Multi­na­tion­al Train­ing Command’s Sim­u­la­tion Cen­ter spent sev­er­al months mod­el­ing U.S. Army Gar­ri­son Grafen­woehr, Ger­many, into a sim­u­la­tion that gar­ri­son first-respon­ders could inter­act with through the Army’s tac­ti­cal gam­ing soft­ware
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A mil­i­tary police­men assigned to the U.S. Army Gar­ri­son Grafen­woehr, Ger­many, con­ducts a search of the Net­z­aberg Ele­men­tary School inside the Army’s tac­ti­cal gam­ing soft­ware, Vir­tu­al Bat­tle­space 2
Click to enlarge

How­ev­er, the exer­cise took place with­out clos­ing down roads, facil­i­ties or caus­ing any incon­ve­nience to the Grafen­woehr com­mu­ni­ty. The annu­al train­ing require­ment was met using a vir­tu­al reality. 

The JMTC’s Sim­u­la­tion Cen­ter spent sev­er­al months mod­el­ing the gar­ri­son to work with­in Army gam­ing soft­ware known as Vir­tu­al Bat­tle­space 2, said Ed Rykard, the JMTC’s Tac­ti­cal Gam­ing man­ag­er. The sim­u­la­tion design­ers ensured the vir­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty repli­cat­ed the actu­al envi­ron­ment and what emer­gency respon­ders would see on-scene, he said. 

The all-day event took place in two adja­cent build­ings on the Grafen­woehr Train­ing Area’s Camp Aachen. Emer­gency respon­ders nego­ti­at­ed tasks in a 3‑D repli­ca of the Grafen­woehr mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ty, includ­ing roads, gates, schools and the Net­z­aberg hous­ing com­plex, while gar­ri­son lead­ers were able to col­lect infor­ma­tion and make deci­sions next door in an emer­gency com­mand post. 

Rykard said, the exer­cise plan­ners devel­oped a com­plex sce­nario involv­ing a shoot­ing and hostage sit­u­a­tion at the garrison’s Net­z­aberg Ele­men­tary School. Mil­i­tary Police, gar­ri­son fire­fight­ers, and a Quick-Reac­tion Force from the 172nd Sep­a­rate Infantry Brigade react­ed to the inci­dent, cor­doned off the area and engaged the sus­pects inside of the school, using a key­board, mouse and com­put­er mon­i­tor locat­ed more than a mile from the actu­al school. 

Peer­ing into his com­put­er mon­i­tor, Sgt. Louis San­doval, a mil­i­tary police­man in Grafen­woehr, entered the vir­tu­al-exer­cise world with fel­low first respon­ders, Sgt. Robert Jack­son and Police Capt. Mike Kreis. 

San­doval began the train­ing and entered the school. After nav­i­gat­ing through the school’s lob­by and gym, and climb­ing stairs in a near­by stair­well, he engaged a lone-gun­man. San­doval wound­ed the oppos­ing shoot­er, cuffed, and dragged him to a secure area where a sec­ond set of respon­ders had already estab­lished a safe perimeter. 

“These guys were very much into work­ing togeth­er — so they were par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive,” said Mark Lahane, a JMTC Sim­u­la­tion Cen­ter facil­i­ta­tor. “We knew we would have to pre­pare some­thing par­tic­u­lar­ly “nasty” for them when they moved out again.” 

Plan­ners added more com­plex­i­ty than in the past, said Steve Hood, chief of train­ing and oper­a­tions at Grafenwoehr’s Direc­torate of Plans, Train­ing, Mobi­liza­tion and Secu­ri­ty. For exam­ple, the gar­ri­son staff was grad­ed on their abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate dur­ing the cri­sis, he said. 

Observer/Contollers at the Sim­u­la­tion Cen­ter “inject­ed” rumors and unsub­stan­ti­at­ed facts through­out the day through bogus Face­book and Twit­ter pro­files from anx­ious com­mu­ni­ty indi­vid­u­als. The gar­ri­son lead­er­ship had to address the infor­ma­tion, or cor­rect the erro­neous infor­ma­tion, said Hood. 

Because the exer­cise was sim­u­lat­ed in a vir­tu­al world, gar­ri­son lead­ers react­ed and made deci­sions with­out the con­straints of inter­rupt­ing the nor­mal week­day rou­tine of the com­mu­ni­ty, said Kim Alah­ma­di, USAG Grafen­woehr emer­gency manager. 

“It’s as real­is­tic as it can be with­out actu­al­ly being on the ground,” she said. “That’s why I see com­mand post exer­cis­es with the [Sim­u­la­tion Cen­ter] as the future of gar­ri­son force-pro­tec­tion training.” 

Rykard said, the sim­u­la­tion train­ing also pro­vides cost-sav­ings ver­sus the tra­di­tion­al, boots-on-the-ground force-pro­tec­tion exercises. 

“This force-pro­tec­tion exer­cise will prob­a­bly run eight hours. In that eight-hour peri­od, we’re not going to burn a drop of gas, we’re not going to put any wear and tear on vehi­cles,” he said. “But at the same time we should be able to meet all (the garrison’s) train­ing objectives.” 

Hood said, the train­ing solid­i­fies good work­ing rela­tion­ships between the many agen­cies and ser­vices need­ed dur­ing an emergency. 

U.S. Army 

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