High tech military camp sets up at Brady airport

HIGH TECH BATTLEGROUND’Captain Ed Weakley, the officer in charge of the command module, sets up the network of computers that will be used to simulate a battle in complete virtual reality. The 4th Infantry Division, the Army’s only completely digitized unit, will be conducting manuevers from Curtis Field over the next month. With what the commanding officers refer to as a skeleton crew, over 100 U.S. Army vehicles rolled into Curtis Field Tuesday evening and began setting up what is believed to be the most technologically advanced war simulation ever conducted in the history of the United States. The 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood is the first digitized U.S. Army division ever to undergo a complete battle simulation, all in virtual reality. The first of two phases of the division’s field testing was done in California several weeks ago where physical troop movement was the main focus. In the upcoming test scheduled to begin Sept. 21, the army will be conducting a battle simulation all in virtual reality. “This simulation will be testing the digital aspect of this division,” said G3 Sergeant Major Michael Urich. “The entire simulation will be conducted from inside the command posts that are set up here at the airport. There will not be any actual movement of any troops, but on the screens inside these command posts, it will appear as if an actual battle is going on. “This is the first-ever division that has ever been completely digitized. Every other division still has to rely on people calling in vital information via radio or telephone. Most of the communications during this simulation will be conducted via secure satellite transmissions.” The actual methods in which the troops will communicate is classified information. The simulation will be the first of its kind. Never before has a division attempted to perform a simulation using complete virtual digital communication. The technology involved in conducting this simulation is likely to bring high ranking military and government officials to Brady to witness the exercise. The actual programed battle simulation will be provided by the SIMS center at Fort Hood. They will provide a virtual war in which the troops stationed at Curtis Field will be evaluated based upon their performance and success. The microcosm of military personnel stationed at Curtis Field is a totally self sufficient, self contained unit that is capable of packing up and relocating the entire 600 person unit in only a matter of hours. The entire unit is set up around what is called the Command Information Center (CIC), a small room about 20 feet wide, filled with computers and video screens. The room is wired with video cameras and microphones to provide real time communications between the officers and field personnel. It is housed on the back of a truck and equipped with slideout sides, and connected to some 20 other trucks arranged in a rectangular shape. In each of the individual trucks, there is a room packed with computer equipment and personnel that each serves a specific purpose. All of the information that is gathered by each individual pod is routed to the CIC where generals and other top military personnel view the information and make logistical decisions. Individual pods set up surrounding the command module house different personnel with varying duties ranging from cooks and mechanics to computer technicians and information support specialists. “Everybody here has a specific job and the entire operation goes on 24 hours a day,” said Urich. “We have every type of person here that any other town has, from lawyers to doctors to policemen, we have them all.” To keep a mobile city functioning and supplied takes the concerted effort of an entire staff dedicated to providing everything from meals for the troops to equipment needed for high tech battle simulations. The “sustainment” team as it is known at the base, is in charge of keeping what will eventually be 600 troops functioning on a 24 hour day basis. “Our job is to plan and make sure that if it is needed, we have it,” said Sergeant Major Donna Munyon.” The entire operation is set up to provide anything that is needed for the duration of the exercise. Mechanics have their tools, first aid stations have been erected and a mobile kitchen unit provides hot meals twice a day for the entire crew. The Army is also using this simulation to test one of two highly classified mobile command vehicles code named Pandur. The armored vehicle is a joint venture between General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin. The vehicle is built with the capabilities of the entire CIC packed on board. The purpose of this vehicle is to give the commanding officer the ability to stay connected and in complete control of a situation while in transit from one location to the next. “All of the computer systems of the entire command post have been compacted and fit into this vehicle,” said project engineer Lance Salter. “This is one of two prototypes in the entire world that has the capabilities of this machine.” The simulation is scheduled to be conducted for four days later this month. Following the completion of the project, the troops will pack up the entire camp and move to their next post where they will continue practicing and simulating to be the most technologically advanced military force in the world.

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