SPARTA, IL (02/07/2012)(readMedia)-- What may look like normal semi-truck trailers are actually a portal into modern warfare giving Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers a chance to experience overseas before leaving the Midwest.
"Come to Sparta in the morning and we can take you to Iraq for lunch, Afghanistan for dinner, and have you home by bedtime," said Sgt. Edward Singletary of Sparta, range scheduling non commissioned officer at Sparta Training Area.
Singletary guided Soldiers from Company F, 634th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) in Mt. Vernon, through a new state-of-the-art training system Feb. 4. The Virtual Vehicle Trainer (VVT) is a combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment. Soldiers break into teams of three and man their "vehicles," â€“ nearly identical mock-ups of a humvee interior, complete with gunner's turret â€“ and don headsets or look into high-resolution screens to see past the trailer and into the digital world beyond.
Spc. Leo Stofferahn of Pekin with Company F, 634th BSB, a veteran of three deployments, said the simulator's terrain and movement were accurate and effective.
"The training was a good refresher for veterans and good for setting up accurate deployment expectations for new Soldiers," said Stofferahn.
Singletary controls the $3.2 million VVT, which is the most-advanced system of its kind available, from a multi-screen command station. With the push of a button, he can change the weather, the terrain (which is based on actual satellite mapping), or zoom into any part of the 3D environment. No longer are Soldiers represented by blinking dots; every image interacts in real time. The digital representation of the gunner even swivels along with the Soldier in the turret.
The software is also very flexible. While it can run preset scenarios, Singletary has the somewhat God-like ability to drop in many kinds of enemies, obstacles, helicopters or other interactive set pieces at any time.
The VVT also has a huge catalog of vehicles that it can run; almost every model of humvee, most models of the
Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, unmanned drones, and even a remote-controlled reconnaissance robot, the Talon, are available.
Singletary said he believes this ability to customize is one of the biggest strengths of the VVT.
"This is the latest, greatest, most up-to-date system that we can train in," said Singletary. "We can put you into a theater-specific environment.
The control trailer also has benches and a projector, allowing units to conduct an immediate after-action review. Soldiers can watch the playback of the scenario on-screen and even hear their recorded radio traffic, allowing them to see what they did well and what needs improvement.
Sgt. 1st Class Greg Anselment of Wayne City, a platoon sergeant with Company F, 634th BSB said the real-time cooperation required by the VVT scenarios was great for exposing shortfalls in teamwork for future training. He also said it would be difficult to get this training without the VVT.
"(Individual units) don't have to have the resources," said Anselment. "We don't have up-armored vehicles, but we can still come down (to Sparta) and train."
In addition to the Virtual Vehicle Trainer, Sparta has virtual marksmanship training for rifles, machine guns and mortars, paintball gear for live maneuvers, and roughly 2,300 acres of open land available for field training exercises.
Photo 1: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Spc. Marty Melton of Sandoval (front), Spc. Justin Russell of Cypress (middle) and Sgt. Jeffrey Blevins of Fairfield (rear) â€“ all truck drivers from Company F, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Mt. Vernon "ride" in a convoy inside Sparta Training Area's new combat simulator, the Virtual Vehicle Trainer (VVT). Inside the VVT, over 25 Soldiers don headsets or look into high-resolution screens to see through the building into the digital battleground beyond.
Photo 2: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Staff Sgt. James Stanfield with Company F, 634th Brigade Support Battalion in Mt. Vernon, mans the turret in Sparta Training Area's new Virtual Vehicle Simulator (VVT), a state-of-the-art combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment. The VVT allows Stanfield to see into a custom-made scenario (his view is shown on the screen behind him) while still operating realistic equipment like vehicle controls and mock machine guns.
Photo 3: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Sgt. Edward Singletary of Sparta, range scheduling non commissioned officer (top-right) and Sgt. John Morgan of Pinckneyville, range control support (bottom-left) watch a virtual convoy on-screen at their command station inside the Virtual Vehicle Trainer (VVT) in Sparta Training Area. The VVT is a new state-of-the-art combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment.
Photo 4: Photo by Spc. Dan LoGrasso, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ Inside these customized semi-trailers in Sparta Training Area sits the Virtual Vehicle Trainer- a new state-of-the-art combat simulator capable of putting over 25 Soldiers into the same massive virtual environment. "Come to Sparta in the morning and we can take you to Iraq for lunch, Afghanistan for dinner, and have you home by bedtime." said Sgt. Edward Singletary of Sparta, range scheduling non commissioned officer at Sparta Training Area.
For high resolution photos, please contact the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office at
Become our Facebook Fan!