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Airmen utilize commercial software simulations to enhance intelligence analysts’ training opportunities

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --

What started off as a casual video gaming session recently led an Airmen to an idea of how to improve and increase training opportunities for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance analysts.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin, 497th ISR Group, was playing a video game with 55 other online players, each performing different tasks within the game’s scenario. The amount of coordination required to complete their mission in the game reminded him of his job as an analyst, and after a little research, he realized he could use the game’s software to conduct training for his team.

“I found that I had an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle on hand (in the game), so I took over the aircraft,” Kevin said. “I put the ‘bird’ on station and started calling out everything that I saw. That's when it clicked; I do about the same thing at work, or know people who do.”

 

The commercial software, which Kevin has nicknamed Sentinel Sim, is a first-person military video game that simulates full-spectrum tactical military operations. It comes preloaded with scenario editors which allow users to add their own ground forces and military equipment, to include ISR assets.

“This software could be utilized as a capstone for specialized advanced analytics or critical thinking courses,” said Master Sgt. Robert, 9th Intelligence Squadron flight chief of optical bar camera operations.

Robert believes the game could be used as a baseline training tool for Air Force intelligence analysts.

The editors within the game allow users to control the game’s artificial intelligence. This creates training scenarios that are tailored to immerse analysts in situations they may encounter as they work live missions and develop their critical thinking skills, he said.

“Military simulators cost millions of dollars to develop and operate; we built this version with $60 and a few computers we already had purchased,” Robert said. “Each extra station in the sim will cost approximately $2,000. I can also say the resources needed are easily scalable.”

These two Airmen, who are stationed at Distributed Ground Station-1 in Virginia, brought attention to the video game idea they were developing and Airmen at DGS-2 in California saw it and started researching the software as well. Robert said the two sites have been collaborating on the project for about a month.

Sentinel Sim can help improve the skills many analysts need to perform their mission, Robert said.

It provides high visual quality, visual recognition training, the ability to model full-spectrum warfare and on-the-fly mission generation, and modification training injects, dynamic missions and repeatable scenarios, he said.

“Currently we're in the development and brainstorming stages,” Robert said. “We're trying to learn the capabilities of the software, while also trying to figure out the most applicable way to implement the training, both short- and long-term.”

The ingenuity and innovation of the Airmen involved in this project exemplify the 480th ISRW’s core value of being curious and tenacious while working to improve the DCGS.

“This is a perfect example of Airmen using low-cost options to prototype better ways of doing things,” said Robert. “The idea has already been pitched to local leadership and has the potential to change the way we train and develop our Airmen.”