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NEWS | April 8, 2019

Air, land, sea: boating on land

By Senior Airman Tristan Biese 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Editor's Note: This is part of a series highlighting the various advanced technology simulators available for training across Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

When it comes to watercraft, not many think of the U.S. Army. However, the Army has a fleet of more than 130 watercraft and every one of their watercraft operators has been through a course at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

The U.S. Army Transportation School, Maritime & Intermodal Training Department here has various watercraft simulations used for training such as the Full Mission Bridge, the Small Craft Bridge, the Expeditionary Fast Transport Simulator and the Vessel Defense Simulator.

“Let’s say I have somebody that has never operated a small watercraft before – these simulators get them familiar with the controls and how to do specific maneuvers,” said Mike Milian, M&ITD craftmaster instructor. “It gives them more confidence and the opportunity to not have to think about those kinds of things [when they have to operate an actual vessel].”

The simulators are used to train for various duty requirements and levels of aptitude. The Small Craft Bridge is used to primarily train E-1 to E-5 on smaller vessels while the Full Mission Bridge is used to train warrant officers on large vessels. The Vessel Defense Simulator is used by the U.S. Army Soldiers here and other units throughout the U.S. Armed Forces to hone their skills with weaponry while on a vessel.

While the M&ITD may be on the Army side of the joint base, they support more than just Soldiers.

“JBLE is like a central hub,” said Guy Fairweather, M&ITD maritime training instructor. “There is the Navy from Little Creek, Military Sealift Command and the Coast Guard in Yorktown that all come to use our simulators.”

The Expeditionary Fast Transport Simulator is used by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command. According to the MSC website, they are comprised of 125 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. military forces and coalition partners.

“We keep [the simulations] completely realistic for training,” said Kevin Giguere, M&ITD technical instructor. “What they see here will translate when they get onto a real vessel.”

The simulators allow individuals to learn the controls, proper communications, how to identify other vessels while on the water and how to handle emergencies such as damages to the vessel or being attacked by enemies. Since they are indoors, the simulators even allow individuals to train year-round, no matter the weather conditions outside.

“You have to look at the all the moving parts that are involved in getting a vessel underway,” said Milian. “You don’t have to pay for fuel and you don’t have to worry about the vessel crashing because if it does you can just reset it. All these things are cost-saving measures that the simulators provide.”

Simulations such as these not only deliver realistic training, saving money in the process, but enable the U.S. Army and its troops to train to the fullest extent of technology.