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Virtual-reality training used to work on teambuilding, experience for Citizen-Airmen at Camp Clark

Senior Airman Westley Smith, a weapons loader with the 131st Bomb Wing, participates in a virtual-reality gunner station during Annual Training at Camp Clark, Missouri, on May 18, 2016. The simulation is part of the Virtual Clearance Training Suite that helps train Airmen on real-life scenarios.

Senior Airman Westley Smith, a weapons loader with the 131st Bomb Wing, participates in a virtual-reality gunner station during Annual Training at Camp Clark, Missouri, on May 18, 2016. The simulation is part of the Virtual Clearance Training Suite that helps train Airmen on real-life scenarios.

Senior Airman Logan Decker, a 131st Bomb Wing avionics technician, drives the vehicle-mounted mine detector as part of a virtual-reality training simulation during Annual Training at Camp Clark, Missouri, on May 18, 2016. The dashboard of the VMMD is nearly an exact replica of what Airmen would experience in the field.

Senior Airman Logan Decker, a 131st Bomb Wing avionics technician, drives the vehicle-mounted mine detector as part of a virtual-reality training simulation during Annual Training at Camp Clark, Missouri, on May 18, 2016. The dashboard of the VMMD is nearly an exact replica of what Airmen would experience in the field.

CAMP CLARK, Mo. -- 131st Bomb Wing Citizen-Airmen used virtual reality to build teamwork during Annual Training here May 18.

The Virtual Clearance Training Suite is a virtual-reality system that helps train military members for convoy operations and explosive hazards that may occur in deployment or state emergency situations.

"The dashboards used in the simulations are as close to what you see in the field as they could make," said Brandon Miller, VCTS civilian maintainer with FAAC Incorporated. "The virtual training helps determine who should be driving what vehicle and which responsibilities each member should have before they go out into the field."

The suite has nearly exact replicas of five different vehicle and equipment types that allow for realistic vehicle familiarization. Airmen can experience a simulated mine-protected clearance vehicle, a vehicle-mounted mine detector, a medium mine protected vehicle, a man-transportable robotic system or a gunner station.

"The communication, teamwork and experience are the most valuable takeaways during this training," said Miller, who runs the different scenarios for the training. "Recruiting and retention, as well as junior reserve officer's training corps programs set up training to work on teambuilding a couple of times a month."

The teambuilding comes into play when figuring out how to communicate with your counterparts during the training, said Miller.

"This training really helps those individuals who are more shy find their voice and get out of their shells in order to help their team," he said. 

During the simulation, Airmen trained on different vehicle types and experienced multiple scenarios - each with their own obstacles. Making the experience more realistic is the rumbling seat, which simulates the vibration of the vehicle.

"It's very realistic. The seat rumbles when driving over things, and the steering wheel handles just like a truck," said Senior Airman Sam Cavanaugh, an Airman with the 131st Bomb Wing. "The communication system is unbelievable. It has the low interface and clear voice coming through, just like real comm."

When sitting in one of the simulated vehicles, the Airmen are surrounded by four screens that allow them to see their teammates' vehicles with the dashboard of the vehicle in front of them. They have a helmet on with communication capabilities to speak to their team during the exercise.

"It helps give you a feel of what a convoy will be like," said Cavanaugh. "Communication is the key - especially for state emergency duty - to make sure your team can keep perfect distance and pace."

The experience Miller's team provides is as close to real as possible in order to prepare Missouri Guardsmen for when the governor does activate the Airmen or Soldiers to assist their Missouri neighbors, said Miller.

"We want our military members to be prepared," he said. "This training simulation really helps them get that hands-on experience they need in order to be successful in the field."