High-tech training device deployed at Pa. National Guard facility

    The Pennsylvania National Guard’s training center at Fort Indiantown Gap is getting a $500,000 virtual training device that allows its soldiers to be completely immersed in a virtual battlefield.

    The soldiers in this indoor warehouse-like space are wearing camo, helmets and virtual reality goggles.

    Their weapons are replicas.

    And they have nodules all over their bodies corresponding to their virtual avatar.

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    Each soldier’s computer connection to the “Dismounted Soldier Training System” is in a pack weighing 35 pounds — fairly light, compared with a typical battlefield pack.

    Lt. Col. Al Ornoski says the virtual trainers work especially well for younger soldiers.

    “Because they’re so used to gaming and ‘GameBoying’ … so it’s a good progression for us and the younger soldiers really pick this up really quick,” he said during a recent demonstration of the technology.

    Asked whether it’s possible to be a great virtual soldier and an abysmal real one, Ornoski says he doesn’t think that’s a common result of the training.

    The new virtual trainer is much more immersive than its predecessors, says Capt. Gordon Kinneer, who oversees simulations at the training facility.

    ‘You’re actually in the environment. As you look left, as you look right, you’re standing up, you’re articulating your weapon, you’re pointing your weapon. Wherever you point your weapon, that’s, you know, your avatar in real life is actually doing that,” he said. “Whereas, on a keyboard, you just push F-10 and he takes a knee.”

    The new system will be a permanent addition to Fort Indiantown Gap, in Lebanon County, which picked it up due to the large number of soldiers that train at the facility.

    It’s one of 34 devices distributed to military training sites throughout the country.

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