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By Dolly Rairigh Glass



UCF-ROTC-AF-ARMY-STTCIt’s been an exciting few months for the University of Central Florida Air Force ROTC and Army ROTC battalions. Last November they hosted an open house in honor of their new facility on UCF’s campus, and celebrated their long-awaited ROTC “home.” They’ve seen a lot of growth and transition throughout the years: beginning in trailers in 1978, then graduating to pre-fabricated buildings, and finally to Classroom II, a state-of-the-art facility centrally located on campus.

But the big buzz about the new facility is the spacious 1600 square feet area located on the second floor. It’s the future Simulation Battle Lab, where the cadets will have the opportunity to learn first hand through Modeling and Simulation. The planned area already has laptops loaded with the military training game, Virtual Battlespace 2, and a sand table being constructed by volunteers from the Army Research Lab’s Human Research and Engineering Directorate, Science and Technology Training Center (ARL-HRED STTC). Although the lab is coming together, they are still in need of tables and desk chairs where the training laptops will be housed.

“The Battle Lab offers our cadets the opportunity to apply and practice military operations, teamwork and leadership concepts learned in the classroom,” said Colonel Todd M. Freece, Detachment Commander and Professor of Aerospace Studies, Air Force ROTC. “The flexibility of the space allows us to host a wide variety of simulators able to support the needs of both Army and Air Force training programs.”

A tribute to the quality of the programs, the Army battalion was selected, for the first time in the program’s history, to receive the prestigious General Douglas MacArthur Award, signifying its position as one of the top Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs in the country.  On March 12, the cadets were joined by a group of friends and supporters, including UCF President John Hitt, for a special ceremony where the “Fighting Knights” Army ROTC Battalion received the award.

A tribute to the quality of the programs, the Army battalion was selected, for the first time in the program’s history, to receive the prestigious General Douglas MacArthur Award, signifying its position as one of the top Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs in the country. On March 12, the cadets were joined by a group of friends and supporters, including UCF President John Hitt, for a special ceremony where the “Fighting Knights” Army ROTC Battalion received the award.

LTC Mario A. Johnson, Professor of Military Science Chair, said the Simulation Battle Lab will provide a key bridge between what is learned in a classroom environment and its application on the ground under conditions what will merit the cadets to be tested in their skills.

“In the UCF Army ROTC program, Cadets are taught the theoretical understanding of leadership and the tools necessary to apply the combat tactical skill in a field environment,” Johnson said. “However through simulation technology like Virtual Battlespace 2 (VBS2), cadets will be able to thoroughly practice these skill sets prior to actually conducting them on the ground.”

“The different applications that VBS2 brings will hone their skill in conducting troop leading procedures, land navigation and even polish their abilities in setting up a virtual Terrain Model Kit (TMK) that will replicate the combat environment they will be operating in,” explained Johnson. “What a plus!”

“Throughout the world, Orlando is known as a Modeling, Simulation and Training mecca, so we felt it was important to help make University of Central Florida’s ROTC one of the most technically-advanced ROTC programs in the nation,” said James D. Nelson, Chief of Operations for ARL-HRED STTC. “Our proposed simulations would help train cadets on tactics, leadership counseling and land navigation.”

Having their own space in the new facility will no doubt be a benefit to both the UCF Army and Air Force units as they continue to grow and develop the future leaders in the United States Army and Air Force. The classrooms, recruiting offices and Battle Lab will enhance their experiences, both in and out of the classroom, but there is one unique feature of this new building that will surely have an impact long after they have graduated and moved on to new experiences.

In the front of the building is a beautiful rotunda overlooking the Veteran’s Memorial; a massive steal sculpture hangs from the center ceiling and steals the attention. It gives the feel of movement from the cut out stars and mirrored stripes, illuminating with sunlight during the day, and decorative lighting during the evenings. Along the circular outdoor area are decorative concrete pillars which depict the characteristics that cadets strive to attain: respect, courage, commitment, selfless service, integrity and excellence, loyalty, duty, and honor.

With the design and construction of the building, the State of Florida and the University send a clear message to the men and women who may one day be our military leaders. “Thank you for your service… the cadets who walk these halls are important to us … you are our future and a reflection of our past,” the building seems to call out.

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