Written by Bryan W Sommers – SGM U.S. Army, Ret., Argon Electronics
A commitment to ongoing education and training is a vital factor in ensuring that military personnel are prepared and equipped for the full spectrum of combat operations that they may encounter.
The U.S. Marine Corps’ individual training standards focus on marines’ competence in recognizing chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN)-related incidents and in taking the required protective measures to achieve their mission objectives.
Key training goals include: being able to recognise CBRN hazards or attack indicators; the checking, donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE); recognizing CBRN alarms, markers and signals; employing detection equipment and relaying CBRN signals, alarms and reports.
Typically this training will comprise a combination of classroom, teaching, practical application and/or field training as appropriate.
The challenging nature of many CBRN environments however can often difficult, or in many cases impossible, to successfully replicate using traditional training methods.
Over the past decade there has been increasing recognition of the potential of live simulations and simulator training in being able to plug this crucial training gap.
While the laptop based Deployable Virtual Training Environment (DVTE) simulator has been a staple of the Marine Corps’ training programme for more than a decade, the integration of CBRN-specific simulator training is still a relatively new area.
But it is one that offers many opportunities.
In this article we examine four of the primary benefits of integrating an element of simulator-based training into an existing CBRN programme of instruction.
1. Enhanced realism
A key benefit of utilising simulator detector technology is the enhanced degree of realism and authenticity that it provides.
With the help of simulators, it is possible to place Marines in life-like scenarios that mirror the hazards of real events – but where there is zero risk of harm.
The use of simulator detectors also enables trainees to experience for themselves those extreme incidents that never occur outside of normal use.
Recreating the presence of a blood agent for example, is something that is otherwise impossible to achieve using traditional training methods.
With the use of a simulator however, trainees are able to see and hear for themselves exactly how their actual detectors will react in response to a real blood agent.
2. Increased trainee empowerment
A secondary benefit is the extent to which greater responsibility for training and learning can be handed over to the trainees.
Simulator detectors enable more of the decision-making to be placed in the hands of the students, removing the necessity for the instructor to have to drip-feed information to his or her students.
In shifting the onus onto the trainee there is more opportunity for them to make sense of the information they receive and to formulate appropriate responses based on that information.
3. Trust in the functionality of equipment
Simulators can also be invaluable in enabling trainees to receive realistic feedback and establish greater trust in their real-world systems.
In training with a simulator that mirrors every aspect of their real device – from the weight of the detector, to the position of the buttons, to the sound of the alarms – students are able to better rely on themselves and on the functionality of their equipment.
3. A better learning experience
Simulator-based training provides trainers with the capability to have eyes on all aspects of the training process, and for all errors to recorded even if they may not spot those errors themselves.
This information can then provide a valuable learning point when it comes to post-exercise evaluation.
Crucially too, the use of simulator detector equipment provides CBRN trainees with the freedom to not only be able to safely make mistakes, but to recognise when they make those mistakes and to adapt their actions accordingly.
The growing interest in CBRN technologies
The U.S. Marine Corps is committed to “innovation, education enhancement and investment in the resources, and technologies that facilitate learning.”
Those investments, it says, include the continued modernisation of its “training ranges, training devices, and infrastructure,” as well as the leveraging of “advanced technologies and simulation systems to create realistic, fully immersive training environments.”
The ability to achieve objectives and maintain freedom of action in a CBRN environment are vital factors in achieving mission success.
As the diversity, complexity and unpredictability of CBRN incidents continues to grow, the interest and investment in simulator technologies is only likely to increase as more organisations recognise their value in improving safety, heightening realism and enhancing learning outcomes.
About the Author
Sergeant Major Bryan W Sommers has forged a distinguished career in the fields of CBRNe and HazMat training. He recently retired after twenty-two years service in the US Army, with fourteen years spent operating specifically in Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) environments. In 2020 he was appointed as Argon Electronics’ North American business development manager.