PENSACOLA, Florida (NNS) -- Virtual training at Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS) Command has been an integral aspect of preparing sea-bound warriors to serve on surface combatants as officers, enlisted engineers, and enlisted navigation professionals for more than two decades. Over the past two years, SWOS has employed an expansion in the use of virtual environment technologies and capabilities in all areas, including shiphandling, navigation, engineering and maritime warfare to ensure Sailors have the right training when they need it to perform at their highest level.
Much of this feeds directly into Sailor 2025’s Ready, Relevant Learning stage of pursuing modernized delivery options both in the schoolhouse and at the waterfront. The goal from all angles is to give our Sailors access to the most robust training with the most modern technology training options that offer “hands on” experience in a virtual environment.
SHIPHANDLING AND NAVIGATION
The addition of more than 30 shiphandling trainers - including those for both Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) classes - in Newport, Rhode Island; Norfolk, Virginia; and San Diego supported the stand-up of the new Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD) course. It was fielded in summer 2019 at Newport and San Diego to meet the demand of providing junior surface warfare officers with more realistic and challenging shiphandling evolutions.
During four weeks of instruction, students receive 110 hours of simulator time in a wide variety of challenging maritime scenarios and build upon the foundational mariner skills training of the Basic Division Officer Course. The JOOD curriculum more than doubles time spent on navigation, seamanship, and shiphandling topics and provides a 44% increase in junior officer training before arriving to their first ship assignment.
With the establishment of the new Mariner Skills Training Centers in San Diego and Norfolk in 2021, more than 60 shiphandling trainers will be dedicated to training individuals in a virtual maritime environment.
Since 2013, SWOS has collaborated with Surface Training Integration Program Office at NAVSEA (PMS-339) to modernize dozens of engineering courses of instruction with the Surface Training Advanced Virtual Environment-Engineering (STAVE-E). Two courses in particular, the Valve Maintenance and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Engineering Plant Technician (EPT) courses, highlight the enormous capability of STAVE-E in fleet education.
The Valve Maintenance course incorporates tablet-based trainers capable of simulating tasks required to conduct valve maintenance with physical laboratory training equipment in accordance with mandated Preventative Maintenance System requirements. Students conduct their tasks virtually on the tablets and then take the lessons learned into the physical lab where similar tasks are conducted on an actual valve. If a student has difficulty with task accomplishment, they are able to refer to the applicable references on the tablet. As a result, course graduates return to the fleet with an advanced level of hands-on training and better knowledge retention that directly contributes to increased material readiness.
With the LCS EPT course, conducted entirely within an Immersive Shipboard Virtual Environment (IVSE), individual lessons are similar to shipboard on-the-job training but in a digital environment. A computer-generated avatar acts as an over instruction watch, providing initial training as students familiarize themselves with the ship and their duties for standing watch onboard an LCS as an EPT. As students progress through the courseware, they slowly move from observation to demonstration of acquired skills similar to completing personnel qualification standards. Familiarization time is reduced drastically, allowing Sailors to "hit the ground running" when they report to their ships. The existing version of the EPT courseware trains on 67% of the qualification standards for EPT watchstanders, allowing graduates to qualify nearly twice as fast as non-graduates.
Over 85% of engineering courses of instruction and 60% of all SWOS courses have been modernized under STAVE and now use some form of the digital realm to deliver required skill set training. These STAVE-E trainers range from fully computer-rendered valves, piping systems and engines that can be taken apart piece by piece, to physics-based systems that operate and respond to user inputs in a computer-generated world. The trainers focus primarily on casualty control. The STAVE-E environment also includes fully rendered ship interiors for the LCS and DDG-1000 class ships.
SWOS continues to press forward with advances and increased exposure for students in the digital training arena. The STAVE-E enclave will advance with more ship spaces and equipment to be mapped, with DDG-51 ship class next in line for virtual environments. The JOOD course provides a dramatic increase in virtual shiphandling exposure and with new challenging special evolutions.
All of these training tools are prime examples of SWOS advancing education retention with challenging and immersive virtual reality environments.
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