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Feature Stories

NEWS | Dec. 25, 2016

A Different take on Familiar training

By Sgt. Aaron Ellerman U.S. Army Central

The sound of footsteps echoes throughout the room as the Soldiers pace quickens and the noise grows. Loud shouting, gunfire and radio chatter fill the air accompanied by an odd clamor of clicks. The Soldier spots an enemy across the courtyard and alerts his comrades over his radio then engages. Suddenly he is down. Blood covers the screen as it fades to black. Now his only glimpse of the fight comes from watching his teammates screen as the team completes the virtual mission.

About 20 Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, participated in Squad Overmatch, a new program designed to condense and enhance several existing Army training programs, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait Dec. 13-15, 2016.

“This training is about taking the best of existing programs and condensing them into a package of information that tailors to the essentials a Soldier needs to win, survive and thrive in current and future combat environments,” said Rob Wolf, strategic requirements integrator with U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation.

The course was inspired by information gathered from analysis of current programs throughout the Department of Defense and other agencies, including advice from industry subject matter experts. Squad Overmatch focuses in detail on improving situational awareness, psychological resilience, teamwork, tactical casualty combat care and human performance enhancement and has been in development since 2013 and is constantly updated with the latest data from across a broad spectrum of operations.

Soldiers train in three phases during the program, classroom instruction, virtual practice and live application, each building upon the skills learned and implemented in the previous phase.

“The streamlined process of the class allows Soldiers to develop through phases building on what they’ve learned and teaching them how to identify and deal with the ever changing environment on the battle field,” Said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Boone, team development program instructor for the class and M1 armor crewman with 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment.

The program emphasizes the importance of the train-the-trainer principle, whereupon Soldiers gain the knowledge and then teach other Soldiers.

“The unit level training with this program is very beneficial because a lot of time when you send a Soldier away to a training class, they don’t receive the information well due to the lack of understanding between them and the instructor. Having this taught in the unit with Soldiers who know each other and how one another operate allows them to absorb the material faster and retain it,” Boone said.

In the first phase the participants learned about the importance of the courses core principles while getting to know each other through discussion. They also established roles and operational plans and received a refresher course in basic combat casualty care.

During the virtual portion of the training, each Soldier monitored and controlled a digital avatar through numerous virtual scenarios. They communicated through headsets while moving as a team to accomplish several objectives. In an adjacent room fellow Soldiers acted as an opposing force directing their avatars to interfere with ongoing operations while simultaneously shooting and disrupting communication and inducing stress into the quiet computer room. 

In the group, there was a variety of different skillsets from medics to tankers that came from numerous units so few were familiar with one another forcing the team to adapt efficient communication in a short period of time.

“The skillsets taught in the program apply to every Soldier, from infantry to logistics, it’s important for all to develop mental models and behaviors that are going to help save their lives,” said Wolf.

For the final phase of the training, the small contingent of troops geared up to patrol a small mock village. Three different scenarios were played out in which the teams reacted to civilian and team member casualties, sniper fire, a hostage scenario, improvised explosive devices and suicide attackers. 

“Advanced situational awareness is a key part of this training, because if a Soldier knows how to read a population through physical patterns they can identify dangerous anomalies and avoid negative situations before they happen,” said Boone. 

According to Wolf, the program is currently is in the final stages of being fielded and a train the trainer curriculum package is expected to be available for implementation by the end of this year.