Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood (III) - Maj XXX Responds

August 20, 1999

Comment: #310

Discussion Thread:  #s 81, 308, 309

Maj XXX, an occasional contributor to these commentaries took exception to my description of simulators in Comment #308. Attached is his reaction to having Hollywood help solve the Army's the readiness/retention crises.

Email from Maj XXX


Your description of Hollywood and simulators was funny, but once again you only skimmed the surface of a complex issue -- in this case, the real danger posed by the virtual war mentality. There is far more to the Army's new obsession with simulations than you suggest.

The Army has recently invested in the billion dollar Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT). CCTT creates a virtual world (looks like a Wild T. Coyote cartoon) for Task Force and lower force-on-force (Computer Generated OPFOR) training.

The Army hopes that the high investment cost of the CCTT will offset the high costs of training with complex, and technological advanced equipment. Today, it costs 90,000-100,000 dollars to train a full-up Company/Team of 14 M1A1 tanks and M2A2 Bradley fighting vehicles for four days in the field. [New readers to the list might want to go to the archive and review Brig Gen Honore's description of the problems faced by soldiers and costs of operating complex equipment--Comment #81.]

More importantly, the Army hopes increased simulation will offset its self imposed PERSTEMPO. Every year, Army units turnover 40-50% (90% plus in Korea) of soldiers/leaders in its combat units. Despite complaints, and numerous studies that contradict this practice of personnel efficiency and careerism, the Army continues to this day with individual rotations.

Now, instead of solving the problem with a unit rotation system, the Army hopes to eliminate the turbulence problem with simulation.

Eventually, the Army plans to have a CCTT task force size facility at every major post, and in Europe and Korea as well. It is theorized, and sold to the Army by Martin/Loral (who makes the system) that platoons, companies and task forces will rotate "across the street" so to say, and simply occupy the simulation and go and train, as they would in the field.

CCTT eliminates the hassles related to actual field training, the preparation and maintenance of vehicles, vehicles breaking down due to worn parts, safety issues (a big zero-defects item), dirt, getting tired, and etc. Even better, the Army can have the guys back by dinner, and home on the weekend. In short, simulation eliminates are all the dirty and unpleasant things soldiers have to deal with in combat.

So, CCTT is seen by the Army senior leaders who love the current personnel system as a win-win situation. They get a new toy that promises to (1) save money in the long-run (why do things always get better in the future?), (2) help retain soldiers because they do not have to go to the "field" too often, (3) reduce career risks, and (4) provide more money to contractors (and more post-retirement jobs for officers).

The problem with CCTT is the same as with other simulations: simulation becomes an 'end' versus a 'means.' Instead of being a baseline trainer, to allow units to "shake off the rust" before doing the complex readiness training that is their business, the simulators will be used as a tool to keep units "trained," while they continue to suffer constant personnel turnover.

When these units really deploy to the field, they will have a hard time dealing with the real "Fog" and "Friction" of war, since they will not be as experienced with packing up and going to the field and operating and repairing equipment under stressed conditions.
------[end email from Maj XXX]---------

Chuck Spinney

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