DisasterSim trains Army for foreign disaster assistance

DisasterSim trains Army for foreign disaster assistance

The military is increasingly using video games and virtual simulations to train soldiers in critical tasks and missions by presenting them with realistic environments where they can work with partners across the world prior to deploying.

The latest example is Disaster Sim, a video game created by the Army and a unit of the U.S. Agency for International Development.  "This software is designed as an instructional tool for personnel who would serve on a foreign disaster relief joint task force as part of a whole of U.S. government response led by [Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance]," Col. Michael Panko, Army South's chief of training and exercises, said.

Disaster Sim's initial scenario challenges soldiers to respond to the needs of Guatemalans during an earthquake, said Lt. Col. Greg Pavlichko, who worked as the chief of the Games for Training program.

In the game, soldiers get many more requests for help than they have resources, which forces them to prioritize resources. “If the soldier doesn't correctly address the most serious problems, there are adverse second-and-third order effects." Pavlichko said.

The hour-long scenario also teaches soldiers how to work with Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, non-governmental agencies and the host nation. Eventually, Disaster Sim will offer leaders the opportunity to create new foreign disaster scenarios.

The game was created in 18 months. “To my knowledge the rapid development of this software, minimal cost involved and fielding time to the Army is unprecedented,” Panko said.

DisasterSim is built upon the UrbanSim platform, a cognitive trainer widely used in Army classroom and operational settings to prepare soldiers for irregular warfare environments, including counterinsurgency and stability operations, according to a project abstract.

The game can be downloaded for free by any authorized military user at the Army’s Milgaming website.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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