GROTON, Conn.- Keeping up with the latest technology is vital to the way the Navy trains its personnel and maintains a ready fighting force.
To help ensure submariners are receiving the right training at the right time and better prepared to do their jobs in the fleet, Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London's Naval Submarine School (SUBSCOL) is submerging its students in a unique and versatile education with the Multipurpose Reconfigurable Training System 3D® (MRTS 3D®).
MRTS 3D® provides a virtual reality training environment that mimics video games through flat panel touch-screens, giving students the ability to perform multiple "reps and sets" through hands-on training and build upon muscle memory before actually interacting with physical equipment or systems. The versatile training system teaches auxiliary machinist's mates spatial recognition and the entire procedure involved in starting a Caterpillar diesel engine. MRTS 3D® was added to SUBSCOL's SSN 774 Diesel Operator Course in April 2015, when the legacy trainer became inoperable.
Machinist's Mate (Auxiliary) 1st Class Theodore Bezaire, instructor, Virginia Class Advanced Maintenance Pipeline said the MRTS 3D® is a terrific training platform that gives students a safe space to practice casualties and learn the layout of the machinery room aboard Virginia Class submarines.
"It provides something that normally we wouldn't be able to provide; that being spatial recognition, being able to locate certain valves and equipment, and being able to start up, shutdown and see accurate representation of casualties," said Bezaire a native of Lake City, Florida.
Cmdr. Benjamin Amdur, department head, Engineering and High Risk Training said the MRTS 3D® software also allows instructors to show the students casualty indications that they could never demonstrate on a real diesel engine.
"We don't have to simulate anything," said Amdur a native of Niantic, Connecticut. "They get to see their actual indications for a casualty or even some minor problem just as they would on the boat, so we could build recognition skills at their own pace without any real risk to the equipment or student."
Bezaire added the advanced trainer is a far cry from the large plastic box with a picture of a diesel engine and front panel simulator that used to be utilized to simulate starting the engine on a boat.
"It's kind of like starting a car without being able to steer; you don't have to open the door, sit down or any of that, you just start the car," said Bezaire. "With the MRTS you get the whole effect; you can open the door, you get in, you shut the door, and you can start the car, you get the whole package."
MRTS 3D® allows instructors to train up to six students simultaneously. The versatility of the training system also gives instructors the ability to tailor scenarios for pipeline Sailors entering SUBSCOL after boot camp, and give more advanced situations to Sailors already stationed onboard submarines who need refresher training.
"For those initial pipeline Sailors, we're teaching them a more basic level of diesel operations; familiarity with the machinery room, location of valves and other components, as well as basics for how to start up, shut down, take logs on a caterpillar diesel engine, so the sort of thing that they're going to do in their initial qualifications as a diesel operator," said Amdur. "That's compared to the more advanced class where we'll run advanced casualties and get them familiar with more advanced operations, but we can do both of those on the same platform in the same space."
Approximately 394 students go through the week-long training annually. Machinist's Mate (Auxiliary) 1st Class Zachary Johnson, student, Virginia Class Advanced Maintenance Pipeline said the new training is quicker and better prepares Sailors for the fleet.
"It gets people more prepared and ready to go to the fleet faster," said Johnson a native of Owensboro, Kentucky. "A seven-week school back then might be 20 weeks because it was dragged out but everything's so advanced now you can actually get right into it and actually train like you're supposed to and be done."
Amdur said he has witnessed first-hand how MRTS 3D® training has helped transform the way Sailors are able to do their jobs.
"I served as the initial manning engineer on PCU North Dakota (SSN 784) when she was under construction," said Amdur. "When you're building a submarine you get a crew and obviously you can't operate the equipment, we were able to send Sailors here to gain familiarity with not only how to operate the diesel and how to respond to casualties, but just the familiarity of the space and where all the components were before they even existed on our submarine so that when the submarine was actually built the team already had a level of proficiency beyond what you would have expected."
Amdur said the software based trainer is not only more cost effective, but easily reconfigurable to add additional training capabilities if necessary.
"If the fleet shows that you need additional capabilities it's just a software change that can then be pushed out to every site which is much cheaper and faster than having to add physical components to a front panel simulator or actual operational trainers, so we're much more responsive to fleet needs and being able to train on fleet weak areas," said Amdur.
"I think a key point that you might get from some of the instructors is that they would rather have this training technology than an actual operational diesel for their students," added Amdur.
Amdur stated the Fairbanks-Morris diesel model was in the process of being added to SUBSCOLs MRTS 3D® training which would allow students to train on both versions of diesel engines being used in the submarine fleet.
MRTS 3D® is an example of modernized, on-demand training delivery, that is being developed by Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division and piloted at Naval Education and Training Command learning centers as part of the Navy's Sailor 2025 Ready, Relevant Learning (RRL) initiative. Sailor 2025 is the Navy's program to more effectively recruit, develop, manage, reward and retain the force of tomorrow. RRL is designed to provide Sailors the right training at the right time and in the right way.
Multipurpose Reconfigurable Training System 3D®, MRTS 3D®, and the MRTS 3D logo are registered trademarks of the U.S. Navy.