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It used to be that warfare could be classified as conventional or unconventional. That distinction now is not so clear-cut. Depending on how these terms are defined, Desert Storm possibly could have been the last conventional war. In subsequent years, a series of military operations in Somalia, Haiti, Panama and the Balkans, among others, challenged U.S. commanders to go into battle against unconventional enemies, in environments that never would have been predicted during the Cold War.

Even in today's information age, nobody really knows exactly what the next war will be like. But U.S. military leaders always have been told to be prepared for anything.

For commanders, combat-ready forces equate to forces that are superbly well trained.

That is the recurring theme in this month's issue of National Defense: What can be done to improve the training of U.S. forces?

Army Brig. Gen. Stephen M. Seay, head of the Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command, eloquently summed up the current challenge facing commanders: "You never know where you are going to be called. ... You don't know what you don't know."

From a trainer's perspective, things are getting complicated. The United States is expected to encounter new threats for which its forces may or may not be prepared. That calls for possible changes in training techniques and priorities.

Further, the flexibility for U.S. forces to train in live ranges is becoming curtailed by environmental restrictions. For that reason, said Seay, the military services more than ever will rely on "advanced simulators and virtual combat environments." To be effective, trainers must be "adaptable and portable," so they can travel with the troops wherever they go. The goal, he said, should be to "train as you fight."

Soldiers today train for peacekeeping, nation stabilization missions, small-scale and full-blown conflicts. "That makes it imperative that training equipment be flexible," said Seay.

Our editorial package devoted to military training and simulators begins on page 36. Of special note is an interview with former Night Stalker pilot Michael Durant, one of the heroes of "Black Hawk Down." Now a training industry executive, Durant shares with National Defense his views about the current state of Army aviation training. You can find that story on page 56.

This month's cover story, on night-vision technology, looks at the next generation of soldier sensors, which will allow troops to see in complete darkness, through smoke, dust or any adverse weather conditions. These advanced night-vision goggles feature what is called "sensor fusion" technology. The U.S. Army is spearheading this work at the Night Vision Laboratory, in Fort Belvoir, Va. For more derails, turn to page 32.
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Publication:National Defense
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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