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NEWS | May 25, 2021

Simulator training saves time and reduces costs


When Army mariners are ready for hands-on watercraft training, it’s not necessary to launch vessels from the docks at 3rd Port – all it takes is class time in the simulator center on Fort Eustis.

The Maritime & Intermodal Training Department, a component of the U.S. Army Transportation School, provides state-of-the-art simulation training for watercraft operators and engineers, marine deck and engineering warrant officers, cargo handlers and railway operations crew members.

“Training starts in the classroom where students learn the basics followed by vessel familiarization,” said James Frohmiller, MITD course manager. “The familiarization can take place on a boat but before they actually get underway, hands-on simulator training is required so they can learn what to expect prior to getting underway.”

The MITD trains new generations of military mariners, following a time-honored tradition recognized by the U.S. government through Maritime Day.

On May 20, 1933, Congress passed a joint resolution to designate May 22 as National Maritime Day and commemorate the first transoceanic voyage by the steamship S.S. Savannah in 1819. The President issues a proclamation annually to recognize seafaring merchant mariners for helping fuel the U.S. economy, maintaining sea power, and supporting our national security.

Because the U.S. recognized maritime skill as vital to national security, the MITD plays an important role in the nation’s defense through its training program.

Depending on the course and levels, training can range between six weeks to nine months. In addition to training Reservists and service members from other branches, MITD also trains Military Sealift Command civilians.

A significant benefit to completing courses at MITD is that it enables graduates to apply for the merchant mariner credential offered through the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center.

“Most of our courses are aligned with the merchant mariner credential process. Once an Army mariner finishes one of our courses and meets the appropriate sea time training requirements for the corresponding credential, they can get it,” said Frohmiller. “It’s a wonderful program and it saves soldiers a lot of money so when they do decide to get out, it makes them that much more marketable.”

While discussing how MITD’s mariner simulation training programs impact the mission and readiness, Frohmiller spoke about the costs of getting a vessel underway and the hazards associated with individuals who have not reached a certain level of proficiency.

“When they’re in the simulator, if there’s an issue where they hit something, we can press reset since it’s a controlled environment. You don’t have to worry about damaging the vessel, burning a lot of fuel or the costs associated with running a real boat,” Frohmiller explained.

Another key role that simulators play is the ability to place people at other ports and provide real-time training before they even arrive in the area, according to Guy Fairweather, MITD maritime training instructor.

“They can get a basic understanding of the area and the battlespace they will actually operate in,” said Fairweather. “That’s a plus for simulation because having the ability to put our mariners in certain aspects by using databases and placing them in those areas of operation is very significant. It gives them real-time training through simulations without even putting them on a vessel.”

Fairweather also highlighted the center’s capability to integrate its simulators with a Vessel Defense Simulator along with a Full Mission Bridge Simulator so that vessel masters can not only operate the vessels, but also control the environment of vessel security.