By Monique Randolph, Marine Corps Systems Command Office of Public Affairs and Communication
How can the Marine Corps best train and prepare for the next big fight? A panel of Marine Corps leaders, including Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, answered this question during the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference Dec. 2 in Orlando, Florida.
“We don’t know where that fight’s going to be, we don’t know what the context of it is, we don’t know who that adversary is, the terrain, geography, time or space,” Neller said. “If we’re the responsible professionals we say we are, we have to recognize this as an opportunity to take a look at ourselves and try to do things better.”
One area noted for improvement is the use of simulators and virtual trainers for Marine Corps ground units. The availability of training ranges and the cost of deploying the number of Marines and necessary equipment to training ranges are limiting factors of live training. Neller and the other panelists emphasized the need for more affordable simulated and virtual training technologies to augment live training.
“We can’t afford elegant solutions that come with a host of overhead we have to keep on contract just to keep the systems going,” said Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, the acquisition command for Marine Corps ground weapon and information technology systems.
“We need systems that are affordable, not only in terms of low cost, but also provide the best-value and good return on investment, and help us offset costs associated with other aspects of training,” he said. Shrader also pointed out that the systems need to be interoperable, with open software architecture, so they are readily adaptable to existing training systems across all elements and echelons of the Marine Air Ground Task Force.
The Corps is also interested in technology that brings simulation to the Marine, said Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, commanding general for Marine Corps Training and Education Command.
“We have infantry immersion trainers in only three spots in the Marine Corps—Hawaii, Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune,” Lukeman said. “These are high-fidelity immersion trainers for squads and platoons, but they’re reliant primarily on role players, actors, battlefield effects, and a large contingent of contractors. So it’s a pretty expensive evolution to take a unit through.”
The Corps needs technology that is portable, rugged, easy for Marines to set up and operate themselves, and able to be used aboard a ship, Lukeman added.
While simulation cannot replace or entirely replicate the physical and mental demands of combat, it can augment and enhance live training by providing Marines the repetitions they need to prepare for combat, Neller said.
“The Marine is our weapon system,” he said. “We equip the Marine. We train the Marine. We’ve staked our entire existence on the quality of these Marines as our basic weapon system. Honing those skills in the spirit that they make us what we are is the most important investment we can make.”