Marines Corps Evaluates Virtual Decision Kit to Supplement Training

A Marine uses Virtual Battle Space 3. VBS 3 is part of the Tactical Decision Kit developed jointly by Marine Corps Systems Command, the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab’s Rapid Capabilities Office and the Office of Naval Research. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider


By Ashley Calingo, Marine Corps Systems Command

Innovation. Vision. Initiative.

Those are the reasons Lt. Col. Marcus Mainz envisioned the Tactical Decision Kit, or TDK.

The Marine Corps Rapid Capabilities Office, in collaboration with the Office of Naval Research, developed the TDK which uses technology that allows Marines and Sailors to train virtually on or off duty, and test their decision-making skills from the barracks.

Marines can use this computing hardware to enhance rapid decision making, employ a competitive training environment that was not previously available, provide hands-on force-on-force training to allow them to operate against a thinking enemy and improve tactical decisiveness in any environment.

The TDK includes:

Augmented Reality: The augmented reality system allows Marines to visualize a variety of terrain to aid in their mission planning and real-time decision-making skills. It enables a group of Marines to conduct virtual briefs and terrain walks while interacting with other Marines in the same virtual environment.

Virtual Battle Space 3: A first-person shooter simulation from the viewpoint of the player that places the Marine in squad- and platoon-level force-on-force scenarios. VBS3 requires Marines to think tactically, make decisions, and communicate with subordinates and adjacent units in a complex, competitive environment using a range of supporting assets.

Interactive Tactical Decision Game 5: The ITDG 5 system allows the users to create and execute in-depth, customizable TDGs that show second- and third-order effects of decisions. This enhances Marines’ abilities to create after-action reports, debriefs and digital sand table exercises, among other uses.

“The TDK is designed to augment the regimented and cyclic training the Marine Corps conducts to maintain deployment cycles and the capability to respond to crisis or conflict in any climb or place,” said Capt. Ryan Steenberge, project manager of the TDK with the Rapid Capabilities Office at MCWL. “TDK helps Marines work on their operations planning, decision-making skills and tactical training. They plan, execute and then debrief to improve their strategies.”

With the TDK, Marines use tools such as drones to perform reconnaissance of the virtual battlespace and gather imagery data they can transform into a terrain model. They view the model using a 3D virtual reality headset and develop the warfighting plan within this environment. Once the plan is formulated and briefed, Marines rehearse the execution of the plan using the networked Deployable Virtual Training Environment software from MCSC’s TRASYS. They can virtually fight each other or on teams against enemy forces using different scenarios and environments.

The system saves the game, and commanders can use the scenarios to train their Marines in similar environments using immersive training systems such as the Instrumented Tactical Engagement Simulation System (also fielded through TRASYS). ITESS is a deployable training capability that uses lasers and sensors on Marines’ weapons, helmets and uniforms to replicate the stresses and threats of combat. The Marines engage the enemy with weapons and simulated artillery, executing decisions they made using the TDK.

“Marines who are competitive and want to win will practice using the TDK equipment because it’s readily available in the barracks, and they enhance their operational and tactical skills,” said Yates. “When they go to the field to apply what they’ve learned, they maneuver very quickly and aggressively perform reconnaissance; they find opportunities, and they locate and close with the enemy. Training in a simulated environment gives you a synthetic experience that results in real, measurable skills, and in most cases, it’s more cost effective, safer and more accessible.”

TDK deliveries to Marine Corps infantry battalions began in May 2017 and will conclude in October 2018.


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