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SEOUL — While many military training exercises are marked by long days carrying heavy loads of equipment and long nights swatting at mosquitoes, the Warrior Focus exercise added new dimensions to training that some officials say might herald big changes in the way field exercises are conducted on the peninsula.

The 10-day exercise, which ended Friday. It included a "live" component, in which soldiers took to field sites and operated their equipment at Rodriguez Range and the Korea Training Center, as well as "virtual" and "constructive" electronically driven elements that officials said helped make up for the lack of available training space in South Korea.

Soldiers participating in the virtual component of the training, at Camp Casey’s Close Combat Tactical Trainer, operated simulators designed to replicate the controls in their tanks, helicopters and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Next door, soldiers engaged in the "constructive" element of the exercise manned computers and helped generate exercise scenarios and send reports to commanders.

"This allows us to train a larger unit in kind of a restrictive space or more of a home station environment instead of having to deploy everyone out to the field or go out to a training center in the States," said 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team planner Maj. Judson Strom.

Lt. Col. Gordon Richardson, 1st HBCT fire support coordinator, illustrated the benefits of the combined live and electronic training using the artillery batteries under his command as an example.

Paladin howitzer crews of the 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment are generally restricted to firing points within certain training areas, making maneuver training difficult.

By simulating maneuvers on a computer, the batteries were able to enhance their training.

Commanders at the battalion and brigade levels were able to make decisions and issue orders based on the results of both the live and constructive fire-and-maneuver missions.

"There’s no difference in the process," Richardson said.

"Battalion and brigade don’t really know the difference between the live and the simulated."

Strom said in addition to easing space constraints, the electronic elements of the training also lowered the cost of the exercise by saving fuel and preventing wear and tear on equipment.

It also presents fewer of the logistical issues encountered when mounting a large-scale field exercise.

As units continue to move farther south as part of U.S. Forces Korea’s continuing transformation, those considerations could drive commanders to look toward electronic training more often, Strom said.

"It’s probably something that’s going to be more important for commanders to leverage," Strom said. "It won’t be as easy to shoot out to Rod Range for a week and have a field exercise. I think there will be a bigger push to use simulations as a way to sustain their training."

While simulations have many advantages, Strom said, they’re not without drawbacks.

Soldiers participating in simulated training don’t get experience living in field conditions or gain "hands-on" experience with their equipment.

"The other two training realms are intended to complement live training, never replace it," Strom said.

"The field is never going to go away. Really being out on your equipment and having your sergeant out there to supervise you is always going to be the best training."


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