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Simulator provides troops with combat convoy experience 
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Spc. Phillip J. Bryan fights it out with the enemy as a gunner in the Virtual Convoy Operator Trainer  
Spc. Phillip J. Bryan of Desota fights it out with the enemy as a gunner in the Virtual Convoy Operator Trainer at Marseilles Training Center. Bryan is a Soldier with the 1344th Transportation Company in East St. Louis. (Photo by U.S. Army Cadet Alanna Casey, Illinois National Guard)
By Cadet Cale Fulton, Illinois National Guard 

MARSEILLES, Ill. – There are not many jobs in which you can play a sophisticated virtual reality video game and get paid for it, but Illinois Soldiers had that opportunity June 7 during its annual training.

The 232nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, based in Springfield, Ill., trained on the Virtual Convoy Operator Trainer (VCOT) here at the Illinois Army National Guard’s Marseilles Training Center.

The 232nd includes the 1344th Transportation Company based in East St. Louis and the 1544th Transportation Company based in Paris, Ill., as well as maintenance units in North Riverside and Springfield.

The VCOT is a tool that allows up to 10 Soldiers to participate in a simulated convoy mission. The convoy consists of four humvees and includes drivers, turret gunners and a convoy commander. Soldiers don head monitoring devices that allow them to see 360 degrees in the virtual environment.

“The VCOT has more than 300 adaptable scenarios and operators can change variables each ‘mission,’ making for a unique experience each go-around,” said Ed Voss, the Illinois Guard’s Training Aids, Devices Simulations and Simulators facilitator.

Gunners are immersed into the experience of a combat convoy mission through a helmet that shows what they would see all around them during a patrol. The stations for drivers include all the truck’s controls. The station for gunners includes any number of weapons a truck gunner might have, including machine guns or automatic grenade launchers.

“It gives you the ability to get into a virtual simulation and trains you to react to a hostile situation,” said Capt. Bradley Roach, commander of East St. Louis’ 1344th Transportation Company.

Sgt. Joshua Hayes said the training as very realistic. “Even though it was a simulated task, I wanted to perform as though I was in country,” he said.

“Not only is it excellent training, but the troops get a kick out of it,” said Lt. Col. Drew Dukett, of Roodhouse, the 232nd commander. “The troops get to do something fun and different than the usual training.”