Thinking Like an Insurgent – Defense News
The Mobile Counter-IED Interactive Trainer (MCIT) was developed – based on Sasaki’s concept – by the Institute for Creative Technology (ICT) at the University of Southern California, which taps Hollywood expertise for Pentagon projects. MCIT demonstration systems have been set up at Fort Campbell, Ky.; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; and Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Miss. Each costs about $1.8 million.
Todd Richmond, ICT’s project manager for the training system, said MCIT is designed to be a cognitive trainer.
“It’s anti-PowerPoint,” he said. “We’re giving them a framework for understanding ambush and IED attacks.”
MCIT consists of four 40-foot-long Conex boxes. Groups of up to 10 soldiers work their way from trailer to trailer. “It’s self-paced,” Richmond said. “For the entire system, you only need one field service representative, and all he does is start and stop the game simulation.”
It takes about 90 minutes to pass through all four trailers, with MCIT able to train about 100 soldiers a day.
å The odyssey begins in Trailer 1, where trainees are introduced to an insurgent character who explains “he wants to blow them up and how he’s going to do it,” Richmond said.
Then comes a video of a soldier or Marine who describes his experiences encountering IEDs on patrol. “His demeanor changes as he goes from video to video,” Richmond said. “He gets more experienced. He gets more competent.”
Trailer 1 ends with a three-minute group quiz on a touch screen, Richmond said: “What was the color of the insurgents’ clothing? How many propane tanks were in the environment? We’re not giving them a laundry list of TTPs [tactics, techniques and procedures], like telling them that the insurgents are putting bombs in dogs.”
å Trailer 2 is outfitted to resemble a bomb maker’s residence, complete with dark curtains on the windows, rubber gloves and a work table with IED components. And there are more videos.
“They’re from the insurgent who thinks you’re his nephew, and these are the videos he’s left to teach you to be the next-generation bomb maker,” Richmond said.
The insurgent tells his nephew the tricks of an IED ambush, such as the need to record the attack on video and note the behavior of troops.
“We’re not showing them how to make an IED,” Richmond said. “But if they’re walking through a residence and they see a washing machine timer sitting on a table, and there’s no washing machine around, we want them to note that.”
å Trailer 3 focuses on teaching when to use Counter Radio-controlled IED Electronic Warfare signal-jamming devices.
“We just want them to know that you have to turn it on when you transit outside the wire and turn it off when you come back inside,” Richmond said. Soldiers are also given a mission brief for Trailer 4.
å Trailer 4 is where they put what they have learned into practice. Inside are two mock Humvees, each with a driver, commander and a gunner with a .50-caliber machine gun. It sounds almost like other convoy trainers, but MCIT has a twist: The soldiers don’t fight against scripted computer-generated forces, they fight each other.
Players split into two groups in each 15-minute scenario. One group mans the Humvees, and the other acts as insurgents. Each soldier plays with the Blue Force twice and the Red Force insurgents once.
“They think they are training,” said Sasaki, senior TTP training manager at JIEDDO’s Center of Excellence. “Actually, they’re a training aid.”
A four-man Red Cell will have an IED triggerman, spotter and cameraman, plus a security member armed with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. When the cell plans its ambush, it uses a touch screen with a map of the terrain marked with potential attack points. When cell members touch a point, the screen zooms down to ground level and the insurgents can scroll around for different views.
“The teaching point here is that we’re trying to get them to understand that terrain is a weapon,” Richmond said. “So they’re looking for military crests, culverts, blind rises, blind turns to plant the device.”
Playing the insurgent side is the most instructive. It’s also the most immersive “because it is an engaging game,” Richmond said. “They want to beat their buddies. They take it really seriously. They set up pretty diabolical ambushes.”
MCIT offers a smorgasbord of options for the discriminating insurgent. IEDs come in four varieties: homemade explosive, 152mm artillery round, triple-stacked mines and explosively formed penetrator. There are also four command detonators to choose from: command wire, radio control, passive infrared or victim-activated.
“They carry out a complex attack and think like the bad guys,” Richmond said. “What are the terrain features for placing our device? Where do we put our guys? My spotter needs a line of sight and he needs markers. The triggerman has to be able to see when to trigger. My security guy has to be in a position so when the bomb goes off, he can provide secondary fire. Or they can do an RPG attack first and the IED second. The beauty of this not being computer-based is that these 18-year-old kids are all gamers. They understand pretty well how to conduct an ambush.”
MCIT gets a thumbs-up from Marines who have used it at Camp Pendleton. “Our Marines get wrapped around the axle looking for the IED,” said Sgt. Alexander Wilterdink. “This helps break us out of the box, looking for the different components of the terrorist cell, like the triggerman or the camera guy, that we usually forget about.”