The potential that computer supported training solutions bring to the military training domain is fairly well recognized, yet we still do not see evidence of large scale adoption or effective deployment of these systems in military forces’ training practices. The opportunities these solutions offer consist not only in the precious resources they may save (material, logistics, human labor), but also in the training opportunities they provide, which would not be available or even possible otherwise. It is, for example, only by the use of simulations that a Fire Support Team can practice Call for Fire and employ multiple air and ground assets whenever they need to; the same level of training flexibility simply could not exist if the Fire Support Team were to use real military assets and resources. While it is important to recognize that computer-supported training solutions do not represent a panacea and they will not be the most effective solution for all training situations, it is very likely that in the future they will have a more important role in supplementing the training needs of the military than they do today .
Good solutions do not happen by chance in any domain – they are the result of long-term, continuous and focused efforts by parties that have a vested interest in that domain. Current investments directed towards developing and fielding computer supported training solutions are not insignificant; several specialized agencies are engaged in securing and managing funds aimed at supporting both basic and applied research opportunities, and other agencies organize and regulate the fielding of new systems and the maintenance of already deployed training solutions. At the same time a number of research teams are involved in designing new technologies and new training methodologies – an effort that is expected to be the basis for future advancements in the domain of computer supported training solutions. The user community is also engaged in this process in its own ways: users try out different systems and help in identifying the needs and selecting the solutions that support their work most effectively, while also acquiring invaluable insights during the actual long term use of these systems (Figure 1 shows young USMC service members using Close Combat Marines (CCM), and Figure 2 shows a virtual Kilo2 training range that served as a basis for a user study focused on novel learning and training strategies in support of urban warfare training).
Our extensive knowledge and detailed insights about the various elements that play a significant role in this domain, and our long experience in working with sponsors, researchers and users, made us realize that many facets of this effort could be improved and executed in a way that would provide a better guarantee for reaching the desired results. Our past combined work and expertise, a series of focused research projects (examples: VIRtual Training and Environments (VIRTE) and “Behavioral Analysis and Synthesis for Intelligent Training – BASE-IT” , both sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR)), as well as our work on collecting and analyzing the data that reflect the acquisition and use of computer supported training solutions in USMC domain , helped us refine the approaches presented in this text. We elaborate on current practices as seen from the users’ and researchers’ perspective, and propose a set of recommendations and guidelines in support of a new framework for more effective approaches and partnership efforts between major participants in this domain.