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Coast Guard training center becoming joint': service needs more advanced simulation technologies to meet high demand, officials say.

The Coast Guard's special missions training center will evolve over the next year into a joint maritime training center to include the Marine Corps and the Navy.

Demand for the center's services has grown significantly during the past two years, a trend that is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. To meet these expanding needs for training, the Coast Guard's special missions center will require a wider array of modern simulation technologies, officials said.

A new joint facility, according to Cmdr. Fred White, the head of the special missions training center, "will have the infrastructure, including computers to host and to house" the necessary simulation technologies.

At the Interservice/Industry Training and Simulation conference in Orlando, White told potential contractors to expect business opportunities to fill in the chronic lack of simulation technology that has plagued the entire Coast Guard and, therefore, his training center as well.

The Marine Corps--the Coast Guard's landlord for the special missions training center--has offered approximately 20 acres of land for the construction of the new joint maritime training center, White told National Defense.

Construction of the $38 million facility will start in fiscal year 2004. White said he was not sure how many buildings the center will have, but it could be as many as seven.

While the Coast Guard already is working with the Marine Corps at the current training facility, the joint center will also include the Navy's mobile security force, said White.

Because the Coast Guard specializes in small boat operations, the service will contribute low-end tactics, while the Marine Corps and the Navy "will do their higher-end tactics," he said.

These plans, however, carry an added burden for the Coast Guard. "The demand for our services has greatly ourpaced our ability to respond," White said. "We are having a hard time keeping up with Coast Guard demand land even] much less with the new demand that is coming out of the Navy, Marine Corps, international, and local and federal agencies."

The Coast Guard is overwhelmed by homeland security missions, said White. The service is expected to grow by at least 100 people each year.

"Even if we doubled the size of the Coast Guard, we will all be still very busy," he said. "We are just inundated right now."

White's biggest challenge at the special missions training center is the high volume of people that he needs to train. In the past two years, the output of the center increased 1,000 percent.

Only last year, White and his training staff had approximately four months to stand up the Marine Safety and Security Teams. That meant putting 100 people through training per month. However, White pointed out that the Coast Guard did not have the infrastructure to train so many people.

MSSTs are domestic mobile units with specialized training that perform a broad spectrum of port safety and security duties. They are modeled after the Coast Guard's expeditionary Port Security Units (PSUs), usually deployed overseas to provide harbor security, and Law Enforcement Detachments. MSSTs are designed to protect military-load outs, enforce security zones, defend waterside facilities in strategic ports, as well as stop illegal activities.

Marine Safety and Security Teams

The center is gearing up for even more work, because "there will be many more" MSSTs that need to be trained, said White. He declined to provide the exact number. According to Coast Guard documents, six more teams have been requested in the president's budget proposal for 2004.

This year, at least two more reams will be placed on the map--one in Jacksonville, Fla. and one in Newark, NJ. The other four are in Seattle, Houston, Hampton Roads, Va., and Los Angeles-Long Beach. They can be deployed to ports around the country.

The special missions training center, before starting the training on the MSSTs, was known as the Port Security Unit Training Detachment. It moved from Ohio to North Carolina in 1998. When it opened, the center had a training staff of only six people. But that number is poised to grow to 125 this year, according to White.

The center's operating funds fluctuate between $2 million to $3 million this year, but the funding should stabilize around $3 million in fiscal 2004, said White.

To deal with the demands in the new security environment, White and his training staff have had to help mobilize a huge chunk of reservists. However, these reserve forces need to earn their basic qualifications, such as handling small arms, to be an effective force, White said.

He noted that the Coast Guard just ramped up a new Port Security Unit made up entirely of reservists. The unit will be put on stand-by for deployment overseas, he said.

"We have about 50 percent qualification rate on small arms," he said. "We spent a great deal of ammunition at some expense, and only 50 percent of them qualify. We need other solutions; we need other technological solutions--we need simulators."

His suggestion was to have computer-based training programs that could be installed at home or in the work place "so that the ramp up time does not rake that much," he said. A top priority would be a simulator that has weapons attached to simulation screen that can display a wide-array of scenarios.

"We need simulation where we can fire at waterborne scenarios, boats attacking our units," White said.

Also, tactical decision simulations would increase the service's capabilities in command and control, said White. "People call it video gaming, [but] these simulations, if they are done properly, would be very useful in increasing our capabilities in command and control. When we do port security, we are going to coordinate with local and state resources and with these, you would nor waste a lot of manpower," he said.

Domestic law enforcement missions can be more complicated than during a conflict, White said. "The first thing we learned by working in domestic port security exercises was that there were huge differences in the way we did our security operations and our expeditionary operations," he noted. "I need to have simulators where our folks can go through and practice different scenarios and know which application of force they need to apply depending on the situation."

White calls these types of simulators "judgmentals," because they would teach security teams how to discern what is hostile intent and what is not.

"We want to practice that before we go in the field," he said. "We have simulations like that for our boarding officers, but we haven't got them for waterborne scenarios.

While the new MSSTs have "a tremendous amount of capability within the unit," teaching the people at the operating level is nor the "end of the game," said White. "Different levels of the chain of command have to understand what those capabilities are and how to employ them." Simulation in this case would also be a beneficial training tool, he noted.

"We do not have the organic capability in the Coast Guard to develop each program in a timely enough way to meet the urgency that we face and we need industry to help with that," White said. The Coast Guard is trying to rap into a lot of other services' facilities, whenever it can, "but we really need to move out, we owe it to our people to give them the best technology."

The center can afford devices that cost less than $200,000. For larger procurements, "the program manager at headquarters would have to approve it, and they would have to make that happen," he said.

Despite the lack of simulation technology, the special missions training center has unique capabilities in the areas of port security, fast boat operations and weapons, said White.

"Within the port security department we train both expeditionary and domestic port security," he said. "Remarkably prior to 9/11, all we did was expeditionary port security. In the fast boat center, we reach fast boat tactics for port security both domestic and expeditionary, we also teach counter narcotics fast boat training," he said.

In the weapons division, the Coast Guard trains the full spectrum of force, from non-lethal means to cruise-served weapons from a moving platform.

"I am pretty sure that we are one of the few places in the world that offers this, because our international demand is going through the roof," he explained.

RELATED ARTICLE: Combat Trainers Shipped to Afghanistan, Kuwait

The Army's training and simulation program office in Orlando, Fla,, recently shipped several new trainers to be used by soldiers in Afghanistan and Kuwait

These deployable trainers will help soldiers maintain the war-fighting skills during down time from real-world operations, said officials.

Units based at Bagram Air Base, in Afghanistan and Camp Doha in Kuwait will receive urban-warfare training systems that replicate the facilities where they typically rehearse city fights.

Deployable MOUT (military operations in urban terrain) facilities are made out of shipping containers, explained Col. Robert Reyenga, Army program manager for training devices. His office shipped the trainers in March.

The 40-foot containers are stacked to simulate buildings, he explained. "They are consistent with fixed MOUT facilities."

The basic setup is for a platoon to train. But it can be expanded by adding more containers. A platoon set includes three to five buildings and a separate area for the after-action review, said Reyenga.

In Kuwait for example, the containers replicate the type of housing found in that region. In Afghanistan, they are made to resemble "compounds," Reyenga said. A family, for example, will build a compound on one to five acres, consisting of a mud wall and several houses within the mud wall. Members of the family live in different huts. "We will fabricate the containers to replicate the compounds," he said.

In the training containers, soldiers can practice live demolition for breaching. The walls are lined with plywood, to support live fire and force-on-force training with blank rounds and laser-tag systems. "There is a limited amount of battlefield effects," Reyenga said. But the containers, although rudimentary, have windows and stair wells, to make the training realistic.

During reconnaissance missions in suspected enemy compounds, U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan often encounter false floors with weapons caches and holes in the ground, or a trap door with a rug over it. "We'll put that in the trainer," Reyenga said.

In the months ahead, he said, "we'll assess whether there are requirements in other places as well."

Soldiers on the front lines also will receive seven new marksmanship trainers called Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, Four will go to units in Afghanistan and three to Kuwait The trainer originally was requested by the 18th Airborne Corps.

The EST 2000 is the Army's "only validated marksmanship" trainer that can replicate every type of small arm that the Army uses today, said Lt. Col. Joseph A. Giunta Jr., product manager for ground combat tactical trainers.

Each system has an instructor-operator station, a high-resolution projector, a detection system, air compressor, screen, cables and hoses to connect to lane-position weapon boxes.

The EST is not just for individual marksman ship training, Ciunta said. It is used for collective training (squad tactics) and decision-making skills. Military police trainees, for example, are exposed to various scenarios where they must decide whether to shoot or not

The system replicates 14 different terrains and simulates all types of weather, said Giunta.

So far, the Army has bought 157 trainers, most of which are in the United States. The goal is to have 1,104 by 2009.

The manufacturer of the trainer, ECC Corp., in Orlando, Fla., will receive a $35 million order in 2004 for 230 systems

Sandra I. Erwin
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Author:Tiron, Roxana
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Apr 1, 2003
Words:1939
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