Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

‘Blackjack Focus’ trains troops, saves money

From left, Sgt. Ronald Kunkel, scout team leader, Spc. Clayton Butler, cavalry scout, and Spc. William Phillips, cavalry scout, all from Troop B, 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conduct battle scenarios, Oct. 23, at Fort Carson’s Close Combat Tactical Trainer building.

Story and photos by Sgt. Grady Jones

3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division

A team of Bradley Fighting Vehicles maneuvered against the enemy, while a platoon leader issued an operation order to conduct reconnaissance, all without using a single drop of fuel.

About 300 cavalry scouts from 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducted “Blackjack Focus,” during the last two weeks of October.

The event trained the unit’s scouts using virtual simulations, coupled with field training, while adapting to a tighter budget across the Army, according to Maj. Joseph Harrison, operations officer, 4th Sqdn., 10th Cavalry Reg.

“Originally, we had planned to spend the (training) days out in the field,” said Harrison. “Based off the (budget) constraints, we took that training event and transitioned it to virtual, live and constructive (training) scenarios.”

The decision to implement the virtual training brought the cost down to less than 3 percent of the original total cost.

“The training event we had originally planned would have cost around $750,000, (due to) expenditures of fuel and repairs to equipment,” Harrison said. “By using virtual training systems, we brought the cost (down) to $17,000-$20,000.”

The event trained sections and platoons on troop leading procedures, virtual training and maneuver lanes.

The troop leading procedure training, which was conducted on top of the hills in Training Area Bravo, helped to guide the Soldier teams in planning missions, said Staff Sgt. Matthew Hood, cavalry scout section leader, Troop C, 4th Sqdn., 10th Cavalry Reg.

“Our platoon leaders issue us operation orders, and we, as section leaders, issue the orders to our troops,” said Hood.

The virtual training portion was conducted at Fort Carson’s Close Combat Tactical Trainer and Virtual Battle Systems 2, where Soldiers conducted battle simulations and scenarios.

The CCTT and VBS2 simulators allowed the Soldiers to train on how to maneuver their Bradley and Humvee platoons and sections, Harrison said, while rehearsing many different scenarios.

Hood said he received valuable training through the simulators.

“The simulators are great,” said Hood. “The level of training with the scenarios we went through is outstanding.”

The virtual training effectively allowed Soldiers to refine their individual and team skills, he said.

“It immerses you in an environment where risk is low, and if you make a mistake on something, you can come back and run the scenario again,” Hood said.

The Soldiers were able to experience the feel of conducting operations inside of Bradley Fighting Vehicles with the simulators.

“The simulators have full driver’s compartments and fully-functional turrets that we could get in and operate,” Hood said.

Concerns that the Soldiers wouldn’t get effective training value out of the virtual systems were quickly dismissed.

“The biggest thing was how rapidly the Soldiers are picking it up, and how willing they are to use it as a means to understand their jobs better,” said Harrison.

The largest advantage for the unit is having the ability to create training missions and adapt, in spite of limited resources.

The virtual training and troop leading came together with maneuver training to emphasize the cavalry scouts’ primary mission as a reconnaissance asset.

“We’re not just sitting idly by and waiting,” Harrison said. “Our Soldiers are aggressively seeking training opportunities to make themselves better, so that they can accomplish their mission of taking care of the United States public.”

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