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ONR's Infantry Immersion Trainer Prepares Marines in a Virtual Environment

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS071219-08
Release Date: 12/19/2007 3:52:00 PM

By Colin Babb, Office of Naval Research Public Affairs

ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlton W. Kent, witnessed a demonstration of an infantry immersion trainer (IIT) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., hosted by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Tech Solutions, Dec. 14.

ONR Tech Solutions transformed a former tomato packing plant on the base into a state-of-the-art IIT prototype, and Kent commented the experience "it was like a flashback walking through the streets of Iraq."

Launched in November 2007 as a technology demonstrator, the IIT began real training of Marines before all of the facility's high-tech equipment was even fully operational.

Originally planned for only several rooms in the I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Battle Simulation Center at Camp Pendleton, Col. Robert Coates, the director of the I MEF training and exercise group, asked the ONR program manager, Cmdr. Dylan Schmorrow, to move the technology demonstrator to an empty 32,000-square-foot facility in the Camp San Mateo area of the base known as Area 62. At the request of I MEF, Program Manager Training Systems provided additional funds to complete the remainder of the facility.

IIT's purpose is to provide the most realistic combat conditions and settings to the small unit, in a virtual format, in order to teach and reinforce combat decision making and small unit mission rehearsal. Using Hollywood set design techniques, Strategic Operations, a San Diego-based training organization affiliated with Stu Segal Productions TV and film studio, transformed the vacant building into a maze of houses, streets, and alleys.

Contributors to the creation of IIT included the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Lockheed Martin's advanced simulation center in Burlington, Mass., and Naval Air Systems Command, Orlando.

Trainees use their regular tactical equipment, but weapons are modified to shoot special effects small arms marking system (SESAMS) rounds, which are similar in concept to paintball rounds. Trainees and role players use paintball masks for added protection. As the trainees move from room to room, they may encounter live role players or virtual characters. Occasionally, pyrotechnics are used to increase realism.

ONR researchers are currently studying how Marines train with the IIT to inform future programs.

Tech Solutions is an innovative, transformational business process created by the Chief of Naval Research and focused on rapidly delivering needed technology to the warfighter. The IIT system is based on technologies developed under the ONR virtual training and environments program that have been developed for immersive infantry training from 2001 to 2007. IIT also incorporates significant technologies developed at the U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command and the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies.

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