GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Inside a massive warehouse that used to house tank simulators, technicians are installing hundreds of computers, big-screen televisions, projectors and miles of fiber-optic cable.
The 50,000-square-foot facility, slated to open in November, will have 300 work stations where military leaders can test the latest computerized command systems.
A few years ago soldiers came to Camp Aachen to use Close Combat Tactical Trainers — devices that replicated the interior layout of a tank, using screens and computer simulations that allow soldiers to "drive" the vehicles around a virtual environment. But with the drawdown of tank units from Germany and a Global War on Terrorism requiring almost no conventional fighting, the tank simulators are not in as much demand.
More important to the Army these days are battle command systems — computer systems that allow leaders to track men, equipment and enemy forces using GPS and satellite maps — employed extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During a tour of the new facility, Joint Multinational Simulation Center chief Col. Stephen Seitz said the improvements are part of a rapid expansion of the center over the past two years. The organization, which uses computers to simulate combat environments so that military leaders can conduct operations using the battle command systems, now fills 56 one-story buildings at Camp Aachen.
The buildings are linked by seven local area computer networks that allow leaders to use unclassified, U.S. secret and top secret and coalition classified networks during training events. For example, one building is mocked up to replicate the Joint Operations Center at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
The JMSC staff also has grown from about 20 people to 65, and there are another 40 contractors working at JMSC, Seitz said.
"We train a staff — teaching the staff to make good decisions in a training environment that replicates the environment that they will deploy into," Seitz said.
Staff officers fight from inside tactical operation centers. Downrange, they are in rooms or tents filled with computers, screens and maps that show where there are friendly and enemy forces and any incidents that are occurring.
Maj. Stacy Elliot, JMSC deputy chief of models and simulations, sat in another building at Camp Aachen full of desk top computers on Tuesday.
"We are the ones who keep the game going," he explained.
In May, the simulation center will host Austere Challenge, an annual exercise involving 4,500 people who will train the 7th Army staff to command and control a joint task force, according to JMSC operations planner Maj. Derrick Cowart.