Marine Corps Family of Tactical Decisionmaking Simulations

by the Staff, PM TraSys S&T Division

As discussed briefly in the previous article about the Program Manager, Training Systems (PM TraSys) Science and Technology (S&T) Division, tactical decisionmaking simulation (TDS) technology is one of the four thrust areas of applied research and advanced technology development. The Marine Corps family of TDSs is being developed to demonstrate the effectiveness and affordability of low-cost personal computer (PC)-based gaming technology to provide realistic scenario-based training for individual Marines, small units, and Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) staffs. TDSs teach cognitive (vice psychomotor) tactical decisionmaking skills for Marine Corps leaders. All current and future TDSs are distributed via compact disk without individual license fees.

The training methodology of a TDS involves a three-phased approach:

* Conduct planning based on the operation order provided in the scenario.

* Execute the plan in the simulation.

* Conduct an after-action review.

To ensure that the proper cognitive skills are being taught in the TDSs, PM TraSys is conducting a cognitive task analysis and a training effectiveness evaluation for each TDS.

The research aspects of the family of TDSs include vertical integration of training systems (training teams from different echelons of the MAGTF); horizontal integration of training systems (training teams of teams from different elements of the MAGTF); gaming technology to high-level architecture interoperability; situational and spatial awareness; command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C^sup 4^I) to simulation interoperability; and recognitional decisionmaking, all in low-cost, deployable systems.

Precursors

Some early efforts to create TDSs are well-known, such as Marine Doom and Virtual Battlefield Systems (VBS1(TM)).

Marine Doom. Marine Doom was a project of the Marine Corps Modeling and Simulation Management Office from 1995 to 1997. 1stLt Scott Barnett and Sgt Dan Snyder adapted the game Doom II from Id Software for training four-man fire teams. The game taught concepts, such as mutual fire team support, proper sequencing of an attack, ammunition discipline, and succession of command. It incorporated M16A1 rifles, M249 squad automatic weapons, and M67 fragmentation grenades. Marine Doom supported four players on a network. Each player was provided with training objectives and information about potential enemy and friendly units. Marines had to purchase the commercial game, Doom II. Marine Doom would not run without the commercial game.1

VBS1(TM). VBS1(TM) was developed as part of the deployable virtual training environment (DVTE) infantry toolkit (ITK). VBS1(TM) is an adaptation of the game Operation Flashpoint from Bohemia Interactive Studio. It is designed as an interactive, three-dimensional, synthetic environment in which small unit tactics may be practiced among team members. Photo-realistic terrain, user definable mission scenarios, and variable environmental conditions enhance the team training experience. VBS1(TM) provides the ability to operate a myriad of land, sea, and air vehicles across large outdoor terrains and allows free play within scenario-based training missions. It supports 32 users on a local area network (LAN) or across the Internet. Each user is required to have a licensed copy with a security upper sideband key to use the simulation.

Transitioned (Fielded) Systems

PM TraSys has transitioned three TDSs to the TDS system (formerly ITK) of the DVTE (although DVTE will not become a program of record until fiscal year 2006 (FY06)).

Tactical Operations Marine Corps (TacOpsMC). TacOpsMC, a combat engineering TDS developed for the Engineer School, is a PC-based, fast-paced, and tactically realistic turn-based simulation. The intent is for students, or the training audience, to be presented with a tactical situation for which they develop a plan. The students will then wargame their plan using the simulation to provide feedback. The changing nature of the enemy will also force rapid decisionmaking. The simulation is modeled to simulate the execution of combined arms operations at the company and battalion level and will cause the engineer officers to apply all of their critical thinking and decisionmaking skills while operating as a part of a simulated MAGTF. Repeated simulation play will enhance their skills as commanders and planners. The simulation can be played in a competitive free play mode to develop combat decisionmaking skills. The simulation can also be used as part of a command post exercise scenario where planning is done prior to the simulation, and then simulation data is used to provide feedback. Command and control (C^sup 2^) and communications personnel can be trained using the command post exercise mode. TacOpsMC is based on the commercial product, Tactical Operations, by Maj I. L. Holdridge, USMC(Ret). TacOpsMC supports 30-plus participants on a LAN. (See Maj Michael L. Muller’s article, “TacOpsMC: A New Training Tool,” in the June 2004 Marine Corps Gazette.)

Close Combat: Marines (CCM). CCM is a realtime strategy TDS that teaches tactics at the squad, platoon, and company levels. The target audience is noncommissioned officers (NCOs), staff NCOs, and junior officers. It is designed to supplement field exercises, allowing instructors to create their own scenarios. The training scenario duration is generally limited to less than 2 hours with up to six players in various configurations of one to one, one to many, and many to many. In the one-to-one configuration, a Marine can engage another Marine or fight the computer’s artificial intelligence. CCM is based on the commercial Close Combat (CC) series from Atomic Games. A copy of CCM is included in this issue of the Marine Corps Gazette for your use.

Combat Decision Range (CDR). CDR is a PC-based, event-driven decisionmaking simulation. A Marine is provided video clips of a real-world situation, played out by both Marines and actors. The video leads to a series of events. Each target event requires a decision to be made by the trainee. CDR provides a number of decision branches that facilitate the trainee’s freedom to choose his own (most logical) courses of action. CDR training is best performed under the guidance of a trained facilitator. CDR was originally developed by GAMA Corporation for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.

Systems Under Development

In order to enhance the Marine Corps family of TDSs, to conduct research into the vertical integration of training systems (training teams from different echelons of the MAGTF), to conduct research into gaming technology to high-level architecture interoperability, to conduct research into situational and spatial awareness in a deployable system, and to conduct research into recognitional decisionmaking, the following TDSs are currently under development:

MAGTF XXI. MAGTF XXI is a battalion, battalion landing team (BLT), and Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) C^sup 2^ realtime strategy TDS that teaches tactics at the company, BLT, and MEU levels. The target audience is captains and staff NCOs. MAGTF XXI can be used to help MEU commanders develop warfighting skills by allowing them to plan the battle, fight the battle, and review the battle. At the start of training, trainees produce, via C^sup 2^PC or MAGTF XXI, all graphical and text-based products to support their military planning process. During this process, trainees collaborate on shared graphical overlays and text-based plans. When trainees are ready, they can activate the simulation and fight their plan against other players or a computer directed enemy. During the exercise, trainees can work together to revise the plan and issue changes to subordinate unit commanders. They can manage the deployment of assets and control maneuvers, and then view the results through an eagle-eyed battlefield view, panning and zooming in on the battle. At the end of the exercise, MAGTF XXI provides charts and tracking information to determine the success of the battle plan as well as a full recording of the exercise for later review. MAGTF XXI is under development by Mäk Technologies.

Logistics TDS. The logistics TDS under development for the Logistics Operations School is a realtime strategy simulation targeted at training battlefield logistics to lieutenants and staff NCOs in the 0402 logistics officer and 0491 combat service support (CSS) chief military occupational specialties.

The objective of the logistics TDS is to leverage existing technology to develop a fast-paced, realistic logistics simulation that will force logisticians to apply all of their critical thinking and decisionmaking skills to ensure that their MEU is operationally and logistically successful. The TDS allows the student to primarily serve as a CSS operations center watch officer with the MEU service support group and use CSS personnel and equipment in order to support the mission. Repeated simulation play is designed to enhance their skills as adaptive logistics commanders and planners.

The mission of the logistics TDS is to teach Marines how to plan for the full spectrum of CSS in a forward deployed, expeditionary environment while enhancing the Marine’s awareness of CSS. The logistics TDS uses the best commercial practices and the latest video simulation technology to provide users with several unique MEU mission scenarios. Key logistics doctrine, concepts, and principles are highlighted by the play in each scenario. The logistics TDS is being developed by Technologies To Be, Inc.

CC: First to Fight (CC:F2F). The CC:F2F TDS under development is a “first-person shooter” simulation targeted at small unit leaders. The overall objective of this infantry TDS is to produce a training system that will emulate the tactical combat environment and allow squad leaders, team leaders, and team members to practice the appropriate cognitive skills in a first-person synthetic environment.

F2F features the first ever implementation of “ready-team-fire-assist” (RTFA), the U.S. Marine Corps’ proven system of formations, movement, and tactics that Marine fire teams use right now in urban combat. F2F’s use of RTFA ensures that each of the player’s three artificial intelligence teammates behaves the way Marines behave in live combat. RTFA guides how Marine fire teams move as a unit safely through streets under siege, cover fire sectors on stairs, take down rooms, use bounding overwatch, achieve multiple angles of fire against enemies, and much more. Because players can trust that their Marines are following RTFA, players can keep their eyes sighted, their fingers firing their weapons, and their minds focused on making the right decisions to bring their teams safely through battle.2 Destineer Studios is the developer.

CC: Antiterrorism (AT). The AT TDS under development for the Marine Corps Security Forces Battalion is a PC-based, fast-paced, and tactically realistic simulation. The AT TDS will provide training for armed AT and physical security personnel involving the use of deadly force to protect designated installations. The intent is for the training audience to be presented with a platoon-level tactical situation for which they develop a plan. The students will then wargame their plan using the simulation to provide feedback. Repeated simulation play will enhance their skills. The simulation can be played in a competitive free play mode to develop combat decisionmaking skills where planning is done prior to the simulation, and then simulation data is used to provide feedback.

Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) TDS. The JTAC TDS under development will provide a first-person view for JTACs to develop and practice situational and spatial awareness for conducting calls for fire and close air support, both fixed- and rotary-wing. The JTAC TDS will be completely interoperable with CC:F2F and CC:AT. As a result, the JTAC trainee will be immersed in a fluid combat scenario, supporting a platoon or company, rather than at a static observation post. This reinforces close coordination (and movement) with the supported ground forces. Atomic Games is the developer of the JTAC TDS.

Anticipated FY05 New Starts

In order to expand the Marine Corps family of TDSs, to conduct research into the horizontal integration of training systems (training teams of teams from different elements of the MAGTF), and to conduct research into C^sup 4^I to simulation interoperability, the following TDSs are anticipated as FY05 new starts:

* Command element C^sup 2^ TDS.

* Aviation combat element C^sup 2^ TDS.

* CSS element C^sup 2^ TDS.

Copies of TacOpsMC, CCM, CDR, and MAGTF XXI are available now, free of charge, for any active duty or Reserve Marine. Contact Martin Bushika, S&T PM at PM TraSys at <martin.bushika@navy.mil> for your copy.

Notes

1. Adapted from Rob Riddell, “Doom Goes To War,” <http://www.wired.com/wired/ archive/5.04>.

2. Tamte, Peter, Destineer Studios, June 2004.

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