By Dolly Rairigh Glass
Commander Robert “Diesel” Salvia of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training System Division, military deputy for cross-warfare programs, was a 2013 participant in the Warfighters’ Corner panel. (Photo courtesy of NAWCTSD)

Commander Robert “Diesel” Salvia of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training System Division, military deputy for cross-warfare programs, was a 2013 participant in the Warfighters’ Corner panel. (Photo courtesy of NAWCTSD)

As they marvel at the training and simulation technology breakthroughs on display on the show floor, attendees at the upcoming Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) in Orlando, Florida, will also have an opportunity to hear warfighters’ real stories about the impact of training.

Each day of the Nov. 30-Dec. 4, 2015, gathering will include “Warfighters’ Corner: From the Tip of the Spear,” a widely attended annual event that features recently deployed panel members from each military service.

The stories told during these 90-minute panels help bring realism to the fascinating and innovative training products highlighted on the I/ITSEC floor. Through these individuals, Team Orlando members and other attendees can gain an understanding of the impact of the training products and services they deliver. Panel members, chosen by their respective services, share their personal training experiences and reflect on whether it was or wasn’t effective, and why.

Commander Robert “Diesel” Salvia of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training System Division, military deputy for cross-warfare programs, is a past participant in the Warfighters’ Corner panel. He describes himself as a big advocate of the program, and feels it is important that I/ITSEC hosts the event to support its overall mission to showcase the newest and greatest training technologies created for the warfighter.

“The opportunity to hear stories directly from soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines sharing what they did, how they did it, and how each training system prepared them, helps us understand more clearly the importance of the Team Orlando mission and how we’re impacting them,” Salvia said. “They remind us why it’s critical to get it right.”

Not all deployments are created equal, but today’s military must be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to anywhere in the world and for any mission–whether a peacekeeping effort, combat operations or humanitarian relief.

“Gone are the days when we trained for a single mission and deployed to perform that particular task,” explained Salvia. “Added to that, the equipment we rely on to achieve mission success has increased in complexity as well. All of this presents a challenge to deploy highly trained sailors capable of performing complex mission sets in a technically advanced environment.”

When Salvia was deployed, he was the commanding officer of a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan, facing many challenges as he worked to ensure his personnel were capable of not only operating in the environment, but also of excelling in it. During their three-month training, team members used simulators and training systems suited for various situations.

One of the training systems they used was the “Small Arms Virtual Trainer,” which provided a safe environment for those who had never fired a rifle or crew weapon. Users had the chance to familiarize themselves with the weapons and achieve a level of comfort prior to going to the range to shoot with live ammunition.

For more experienced soldiers, other immersive training systems were used with a higher level of decision-making scenarios to test their ability to adapt to the threat. At the conclusion of the training, the team possessed a wide range of ability and skills for “boots on the ground” combat scenarios and mounted patrols.

“The combination of all of these systems is what is needed to ensure that everyone, no matter their starting skill set, is trained adequately, challenged throughout the training, and ultimately, sent forward ready to respond to any and all threats,” Salvia said.

Dan Torgler, deputy director for the Joint Training Integration and Evaluation Center, believes Warfighters’ Corner panelists help drive home the importance of training.

“It’s all about the warfighter, no matter what organization, because everybody has the same mission,” Torgler said. “If we don’t provide our warfighters the training they need and improve their readiness, we haven’t done our job. To have the opportunity to be able to hear the stories from the warfighters who have experienced the training firsthand, it’s really motivating as we look to move forward and continue to improve.”

Salvia said this feedback loop offers first-hand knowledge of how the battlefield has changed and also identifies what new challenges might need to be addressed. “For those who build the systems, this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to training effectiveness.”

The session also allows military personnel to share how they overcame and adapted to new threats and previously unknown environments not addressed during their training. “Sharing that knowledge at I/ITSEC gives industry the opportunity to design training systems to fill those gaps,” Salvia said.

As an operator, Salvia never knew the effort involved in developing the training systems: He just asked for capabilities and they arrived. “Having now seen the tireless efforts of so many dedicated to ensuring the warfighters are getting the best training, I have a greater appreciation for our industry.”

“It is a great relationship that requires the technical expertise of so many, plus the operational experience of the warfighter to make sure that the training systems for tomorrow’s warfighters are the best they can be,” he said. “As the missions become more complex and integrated, and platform and weapons technology continues to increase, high-fidelity, immersive training systems that effectively match the technology to the required task will continue to be in high demand.”

This article was originally published in the October 2015 issue of MT2.

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