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627 LRS adopts virtual reality training system to cut costs, increase safety

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Callie Norton
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) recently invested in the Doron 660 Simulation System, a modern virtual reality driving tool that provides Airmen the foundational driving skills needed to succeed in their jobs.

McChord’s ground transportation team is confident the simulator will enhance their vehicle training program’s safety and cost effectiveness.

“Virtual reality is really the best thing when it comes to safety,” said Tech. Sgt. Roger Rhodes, 627th LRS ground transportation section chief. “We don’t have to worry about various hazards and other drivers on the road, it’s a controlled environment.”

Many Airmen who begin their Air Force careers in ground transportation only have a Class C driver’s license. The benefit of gaining experience on multiple types of simulated vehicles and learning how to safely operate in different driving conditions is instrumental both in the military and civilian sector. 

 “We can change the vehicle size, the transmission – automatic or manual – rain, snow, daytime, nighttime, whether the roads are slick or not,” Rhodes said. “Overall when it comes to how we can manipulate the training we can accomplish a lot inside the simulator.”

Tackling difficult terrain conditions is a big part of ground transportation Airmen’s training. It is crucial they are equipped for all types of weather conditions.

“Instead of us having to go to the mountains during winter time so Airmen can train in the snow and ice, we can do that right here where it’s controlled so there’s no risk to the trainee, trainer or the vehicle,” Rhodes said.

The simulator will correlate to a significant reduction in fuel consumption and decrease operations & maintenance costs, ultimately prolonging the life of ground transportation’s vehicle fleet.   

“It’s similar to anyone who’s learning how to drive a regular car, they’re hitting the brakes hard, hitting the gas hard, so over time it’s a lot of wear and tear on our vehicles,” Rhodes said. “They’ll get comfortable in the sim [simulator] then move on to the vehicles.”

Considering most Airmen in the ground transportation career field start out as novice vehicle operators, it is important they acclimate to the simulator in order to gain confidence and eliminate the initial anxiety associated with operating larger vehicles.

“I have Airmen who are really passionate about the career field,” said Staff Sgt. Larry Todd, 627 LRS vehicle operator trainer. I can put my Airman in the simulator and teach them the correct procedures with driving a manual transmission and fine tune how to steer while backing up a larger vehicle.  When I take them out to the real vehicle, it’s something their much more familiar and comfortable with. They get in the real vehicle and all those extra things that we can’t quite replicate with virtual reality are just little things they now have to overcome.”

Progress and hours required in the simulator will depend on an Airmen’s previous driving experience and type of driver license they possess.

“Simulators like these provide incredible training opportunities for our Airmen, helping us get after readiness without costly temporary duties and prolonged absences from home station,” said Chief Master Sgt. Joel Buys, 627th Air Base Group superintendent.

The state-of-the-art simulator has a tracking replay function which allows instructors to review training sessions from a birds-eye view perspective.  This allows instructors the opportunity to make on the spot corrections with the trainee to eliminate the same error from happening again in the future. 

“We can go over the same events a few times, look at it from different angles so that they can get a better idea of what they’re doing in the sim before they get out there and they start doing the same thing,” Todd said. “They say, ‘okay I’ve seen this before, I know what I’m doing.’”

The Doron 660 Simulation system provides 80 different vehicles including buses, tractor-trailers, police cars, fire trucks, and several military vehicles such as Humvees or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. There are upwards of 200 different programmed driving scenarios, giving trainers the ability to control weather, road conditions, visibility and vehicle malfunctions.

“Anyone who drives a government vehicle can participate in this virtual reality training,” Rhodes said. “We want share this training experience with other squadrons such as civil engineering, aerial port, security forces, and medical squadron.  The simulator offers high speed chases, defensive driving scenarios, including an ambulance. We picked this [sim] to fit the needs of almost anyone on the installation.”

For years the Air Force has used virtual reality training for pilots and air traffic controllers to better handle the skies; now it is time to streamline vehicle training on the ground.

“This simulator is a prime example of what happens when innovative Airmen turn an idea into reality,” Buys said. “As leaders, we owe it to our Airmen to foster a culture of innovation and create the framework to bring these innovations to life.”