Marines at Camp Lejeune recently tested Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE), an interactive training tool designed by USJFCOM to prepare warfighters so that their first firefight is no worse than their last simulation.
By Army Sgt. Josh LeCappelain
(CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., March 5, 2010) - Camp Lejeune warfighters tested a U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) interactive training simulation during a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) here Feb. 23 - March 4.
Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE) is a virtual reality-based training system to improve team decision-making skills through a series of realistic scenarios that challenges warfighters to read and react to situations and signals they may encounter in a real-world mission situation. .
Jay Reist, FITE operational manager, said that FITE provides trainers and participants with an immersive training environment that emphasizes complex tactical and decision making skills.
"FITE is a stimulus effort for us, directed by the DoD, to replicate the joint operating environment and to take experiences in training into a realistic, immersive world," said Reist, who added that his team has been working on the project for 18 months.
"The goal of the [JCTD] is to demonstrate the prototype in full effort to turn into a system that focuses into some integration that replicates these experiences," Reist said. "We want to get several perspectives on how to enhance experience and replicate realistic environments.
FITE currently has four scenarios drafted from warfighter experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan and designed by professional writers and medical professionals.
"We want to focus on how young men, ages 18-24, think in complex environments. Through this virtual experience, we can engage that and prepare them for deployments," added Reist. "We want their first firefight to be no worse than their last simulation."
Thirteen Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment participated in the training. At the training center, they were strapped into their gear, with sensors added to their helmets, weapons and knees to track their movement in the training world.
FITE organizers also tracked medical feedback such as heart rate and other factors so that experts could monitor how immersed they were becoming in the experience and how stressful or excited they became during the exercise.
"They're doing well. They're doing a great job adapting and learning their [roles]," said Lind, who recently returned from Afghanistan. "This training is a good, valuable tool. I had my doubts about it, thinking that it was just going to be a video game. But I've been really impressed by what it brings to the table."
Lind said he was impressed by the realism of the digital towns, people, terrain, buildings and behaviors, adding that they closely resembled what he remembers from his experiences.
One of Lind's Marines, Lance Cpl. Craig Fazenbaker, went through all of the training. A veteran of both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, he thought there were some things missing from the scenarios but, overall, thought they were a valuable training tool.
"There were a couple of things that I think they should add, [like] more people in the towns, as well as the loudspeaker that called people to prayer. When that thing went off, no matter where you were, you heard it," he said, adding the grenades would also be a useful addition. "Overall, my heart was pumping and the squad had really good communication with each other. That last part we went through [a direct engagement] was really intense."
An additional testing of this first phase of testing called "spiral one" is scheduled for later this month at Fort Benning, Ga.
The next phase, scheduled for September at Camp Pendelton, Calif., will feature mixed reality programs where trainees will interact in immersive environments and engage physical and mental obstacles, with more emphasis on live training instead of the virtual training experienced in spiral one.