Marine Corps Base Quantico -- The hills at Range 7 aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico were empty except for tawny grasses and scruffy pines, but when 2nd Lt. Jacob Sparkman looked, he saw tanks, aircraft, and explosions from indirect fire.
Sparkman was trying out the Augmented Immersive Team Training system, a new technology developed by the Office of Naval Research specifically for the Marine Corps, which populates the real-world view of a Marine in training with simulated elements of battle. AITT can insert weapons effects such as mortar, artillery, fixed- and rotary- wing aircraft, and targets such as enemy personnel, tanks, and buildings to the Marines’ surroundings, making their force-on-force training more effective.
“The more often Marines are able to train in a realistic environment, the more effective they’ll be,” said J.B. Egan, a retired Marine colonel who works in demonstration and assessment support for the ONR Expeditionary Maneuver and Combating Terrorism department. “They develop muscle memory, like riding a bicycle.”
The Office of Naval Research has developed three prototypes of AITT. One will be put into use for training right away. In December, it will be shipped to Okinawa for use by the 1st Marine Division.
“This was a demand signal from [an] infantry commander, not a push,” said Col. Walt Yates, program manager for Training Systems.
Marines in the Infantry Officer Course trained with AITT for the second time on Nov. 7 and Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, was briefed on the new technology that afternoon.
Dr. Peter Squire, the program manager at ONR who developed the AITT prototypes, gave the initial brief to the commandant.
“We want to make sure your Marines are never in an unfair fight,” Squire told Neller. “If they can’t see live fire effects, their training is not accurate.”
He said AITT has taken augmented reality technology—an example of which is the yellow first-down line in a televised football game—and made it mobile, so that Marines can conduct on-demand training anywhere.
Neller asked Squires whether the simulated enemy personnel would exhibit human behavior. Squires said that ONR is working on a way for them to have that capacity.
Neller asked one of the instructors leading the Infantry Officer Course whether he thought he would make time to use AITT in training. The officer replied that he would.
“Marines are fighting to get trained,” he said.
After the brief and demonstration, Neller said that he thinks the technology is “very impressive” shows a huge amount of potential.
“We’re going to pay close attention to this,” he said. “We’ll push forward and figure out what we can get out of it.
“As Marines, we want to use technology, not be used by it,” Neller continued. “If it can make us a better weapon system, if it can make Marines more lethal and more likely to survive, then we owe it to ourselves to look into it.”
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