Story and photo by Tobi Edler/Fort Jackson Leader
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (TRADOC News Service, Oct. 21, 2005) – Fort Jackson is piloting a computer-based system that will give Soldiers more tools to help them on the asymmetrical battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In today’s Army, learning what to look for and simply being aware of the surroundings can ultimately save a Soldier’s life.
“Every Soldier as a Sensor,” or ES2, is quickly changing the way Soldiers think and enhances a Soldier’s situational awareness.
The significance of situational awareness was also important in another war, Vietnam, where knowing the surroundings proved critical.
“In Iraq, Soldiers go on an average of 400 patrols a day,” said Maj. Rick Quinby, executive officer of 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment. “Soldiers can’t always wait around for someone to tell them what to do.”
The pilot program has captured the interest of Training and Doctrine Command, Army G-2, Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and the secretary of the Army. Many Army officials have their attention focused on how to use technology in training, said Quinby.
As millennials (young people ages 12-18) continue to show they can handle multitasking and computers, ES2 appears to be a perfect fit for today’s generation of Soldiers.
Soldiers-in-training usually visit the ES2 facility during Week 5 and 6 of their basic combat training.
“We are beginning to capitalize on their computer skills,” said Quinby. “This generation has proven to respond to the methodology of teach me, show me and then let me do it myself,” said Quinby.
The software was designed by the makers of the videogame "Full-Spectrum Warrior" and, although it is not a first-person shooter, it does have panoramic views requiring Soldiers to always be alert.
Soldiers are able to choose from a menu that will let them select whether they wish to investigate, detain, call local police, take a picture, make a mental note, talk to a local, translate graffiti or report to a squad leader.
Coinciding with the warrior tasks and drills, information-gathering and reporting to squad leaders creates some early command-and-control practice for the Soldiers at the very basic level.
ES2 reinforces what the drill sergeants already taught Soldiers throughout BCT.
“The software is enhancing everything we are learning anyway,” said 1st Sgt. Bert Puckett, acting command sergeant major of 2nd Bn., 28th Inf. Regt. “The ES2 only represents about one third of the situational-awareness training, but it is an important one third.”
Prior to using the facility, the Soldiers-in-training are taught memorization drills borrowed from the Rangers, change-detection exercises in the barracks and scanning drills to identify possible improvised explosive devices while roadmarching.
Both Puckett and Quinby agree that the ES2 training these Soldiers are receiving at Fort Jackson is paying off in other areas as well.
“It increases discipline because Soldiers are more aware and pay closer attention to detail,” said Puckett.
“We just keep upping the ante,” said Quinby. “Simple things, such as recognizing rank and calling attention for officers, vs. at-ease, is one big clue this training is working.”
At ES2 the Soldiers engage in wargame simulations which last 20 minutes. Quinby jokingly said, “There are no cheat codes.”
The computer issues a grade to the Soldiers at the end, and throughout the scenario, oak-leaf clusters and stars are awarded to Soldiers who identify threats correctly.
“At this point we have some Soldiers who, according to the ES2, are considered oversensitive because they will identify the smallest thing,” said Quinby. “The software will actually subtract points. But it tells me that the Soldiers are more alert.”
The plan is to have every Soldier do a minimum of three simulations at ES2 by the end of BCT. At this time, only the pilot group from 2nd Bn. 28th Inf. Regt., is using the facility.
ES2 has low cost and low equipment overhead but has the potential to reap huge benefits for Soldiers and the Army.
“Soldiers are likely to be in theater within 30 days of graduating advanced individual training unless their assigned unit just came back or is in the trainup phase to go to country,” said Quinby. “So, if we don’t start teaching this here and now, they might not get a chance to learn it.”
“Anything we can do for them, any tools we can hand them before theater, we have to do it,” said Puckett. “If this training will help to keep them alive or give Soldiers an edge, we owe it to them. And, according to feedback from the field, ES2 helps.”