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UTSA ROTC students train with combat simulator

UTSA ROTC cadets learn about combat

By Omar Hernandez
Public Affairs Specialist

(May 6, 2009)--The current economic downturn has many students wondering what jobs will be available after graduation. That is not the case for the senior cadets of Roadrunner Battalion, since they have already made the decision to begin military careers after graduating from UTSA. So, while the idea of finding a job may not weigh on their minds, the reality of war may.

With the nation battling on two war fronts, the commitment to serve in the military is more dangerous than ever. Fortunately for UTSA cadets, they have access to some of the most advanced equipment the military has to offer. With the support of Fort Sam Houston, UTSA cadets train on the Virtual Combat Convoy Trainer (VCCT) at Camp Bullis.

The Lockheed Martin VCCT is a system that simulates what soldiers likely will see in Iraq or Afghanistan. Training consists of several full-scale vehicles isolated in rooms with 3-D walls. With teams of five per vehicle, each team can "see" other teams in the unit virtually, but not physically. Each team member is assigned a seat in the vehicle and a weapon. Weapons are the size and weight of those issued in active duty.

The simulation takes participants through a virtual tour of cities in Iraq. Throughout the journey, the cadets encounter nonviolent situations such as traffic and crowds of people. However, they also experience small-gun firing, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices from enemy forces.

The training exercise quickly escalates as participants communicate via radio during the simulation. Warren Lewis, who spent a year in Iraq before deciding to become an officer, said the technology even had him "on edge."

"When I got in the passenger seat, I got a little adrenaline rush like I was leaving the wire for the first time," he said. "It was kind of like being in that element again, which is exciting."

Veterans like Lewis know the benefits of good training; it can mean the difference between life and death. But for those less experienced, the VCCT can help cadets discover something about themselves.

"I wasn't sure what to expect, but it definitely did help," said Michael Neu, a junior cadet. "I saw a side of me that I never really saw before. I'm usually more reserved, but in this situation I was more vocal in my communication."

Once the cadets finish with the first run-through, they file into an adjoining room to talk about what they encountered in an effort to highlight the positive points and make corrections on any errors. The tension lifts, and while the tone remains serious, the stress in their voices is gone. After a short meeting, they split up, go back to the simulators and continue the training.

For the duration of the cadets' military careers, training will become a huge part of their lives. In a short time, these men and women could lead troops on the battlefield, making exposure to such realistic training crucial.

"You are forcing these future officers into a simulated environment that mirrors what you could see in combat," said Lewis.

Find more information, visit the Roadrunner Battalion Web site or call (210) 458-4622.

The UTSA Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) is a program that combines electives in military science with practical and unmatched leadership training. The military science courses prepare men and women to succeed in college, become Army officers and develop their chosen careers.

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