Virtual reality goggles and body worn sensors are helping to take technical training to the next level at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. The gear is part of a virtual reality simulator, and among the newest equipment being used to train international military students from partner nations.
The SV-R simulator will be used to train military and law enforcement students from Latin America, focusing on counter narcotic efforts and combatting transnational criminal organizations.
“It’s going to enhance training greatly for our students,” said Master Sgt. Ricardo Alonso, IAAFA’s chief of Standardization and Evaluation, who helped bring the technology to the academy. “Many of them have never been exposed to this kind of training environment.”
The SV-R simulator allows instructors to create an infinite number of scenarios in a realistic training environment. As Alonso explained, “even change the factors within it as to how lethal we have to respond as military police or law enforcement officers.”
The simulator features the user as an avatar and allows users to realistically interact with one another, creating a true-to-life environment. The technology is being implemented into IAAFA’s Special Reactions Team and Ground Defense Leadership courses curriculum, where new and more advanced students can train in a controlled environment.
“We’re trying to bring students into something that’s more realistic, but safe as well,” Alonso said. “So, we evaluate their tactics in a virtual space first, and then we take them out to the range with live-fire weapons.”
IAAFA is accelerating change through implementing this cutting-edge technology for its security forces flight. According to Alonso, it also serves as a model for Security Forces technical training, who is considering implementing a similar technology. Accelerating change has been a common theme for the academy as it continues to modernize to help meet the needs of a strategic competition environment.
The academy also recently acquired a modular training shoot house, to use as part of a final training exercise for students in the Ground Defense Leadership and Special Reactions Team courses. The shoot house consists of modular wood panels that can be easily moved and reconfigured into different layouts, ensuring students remain challenged.
The facility, situated in the middle of IAAFA’s campus, eliminates the need to transport students across town to Camp Bullis for similar training, which helps to save time and money.
The move to modernize training is also evident with an A-29 cockpit simulator that was recently acquired by the academy.
“It’s unlike anything we have here,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Woolf, IAAFA’s chief of Strategic Plans and Programs, who oversees the A-29 assembly. “It’s a real-world asset that’s used by five Latin American countries, so it unlocks many different core competencies that we can teach our partner nation students.”
The simulator was transported from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, in late November and is currently awaiting set up. The A-29 Super Tucano will be implemented into the Pilot Instrument Procedures Course curriculum this academic year, with an expansion projected in other courses based on combatant command objectives and partner nation needs.
“As we celebrate IAAFA’s 80th anniversary, our team continues to find innovative methods to bring impactful and relevant academics to our Latin American partners,” said Col. José Jiménez, Jr., IAAFA commandant. “We must meet our customers’ needs and keep pace with our strategic competitors.”