The 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, 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 the 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 Logistics Readiness Squadron 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 wintertime 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 and 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 (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, 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operator trainer. I can put my airmen 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.”