EOS Airmen accelerate change with app, VR technology

  • Published
  • By Maj. Tania Bryan
  • U.S. Air Force Air Expeditionary Center Public Affairs

Through two innovative new programs currently under development, Airmen at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Operations School are accelerating change to improve the training courses offered here.

The group is leading innovation in the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center with two pilot programs bringing advanced technology to enhance efficacy and efficiency, moving beyond traditional training approaches.

The EOS trains and educates total force Airmen for a broad spectrum of expeditionary operations. To better deliver this training, Air Education Training Command’s Special Mission Training Division brought the notion of a mobile application, or app, to the 421st Combat Training Squadron. The team at 421st CTS worked together with Orchestra Macro Systems to build the app, called Orchestra.

“Orchestra is a data collection application to allow for deeper analysis of level of learning achieved by the students and monitor risk factors for muscular skeletal injuries sustained during training,” said Evan “Rusty” Hoyt, 421st CTS course director.

With Orchestra, course facilitators can use health history inputs provided by the students and physical fitness assessment scores to generate training plans customized to each individual student. The app uses predictive maintenance to do this by enhancing the value and accuracy of personnel assessments to predict future health and performance. The technology allows instructors to minimize the possibility of injuries and tailor training by helping to better understand the factors that cause those injuries and enable learning during training, said Hoyt.

“I think there are many training venues that could benefit from this technology as we build and develop the capabilities,” Hoyt said. This is why AETC started here to build and test the program.

Furthering the EOS’s innovation goals, the 423d Mobility Training Squadron, also under the EOS, has found a way to make the current training environment more engaging. The squadron is responsible for a variety of instruction in logistics readiness, deployment, maintenance, air transportation, aviation operations, and air mobility operations. A key role to enabling air mobility operations is inspecting cargo to ensure it is fit for military airlift. Determining air worthiness requires Airmen to earn and maintain a special certification called Joint Inspector.

Being a Joint Inspector is a highly detailed and technical undertaking which requires consistent practice and annual recertification. Sometimes, due to variations in real-world missions or insufficient cargo available to practice on, getting the practical time processing cargo can be limited, said Staff Sgt. Matthew Reinitz, C-5 Aerial Port Expeditor course director.

“Inspecting cargo is a very interactive, hands-on process and conducting training through a point and click simulator is not the most realistic tool to keep skills fresh,” said Reinitz. “Our thought was if we could build a virtual environment where inspectors had to actually walk around, look inside, look underneath, it would get them a much closer to real life experience and make for much more effective training.”

With this in mind, Airmen in the 423d MTS developed a virtual joint inspection yard, complete with pallets and vehicles to be inspected. Using digital models from the current simulator and importing them into video game software that allows for level design, the inspector can put on a virtual reality headset and be in the middle of a deploying unit and interact with the different pieces of equipment, said Reinitz.

“At first it just started as a way to see what cool new things we could play around with, but then it grew into something that absolutely has real world applications,” said Reinitz. “Getting the models out of the simulator has opened up the capability to do much more than just teach Joint Inspection.”

While the squadron’s VR training concept is still in the research and development phase the team has conducted remote training demonstrations with other base units to help refine the capability.

“We invited Airmen in upgrade training to use the VR headsets and our instructor conducted a lesson demonstrating the principles of center of balance from home using his VR headset,” said Reinitz. “This proved we are able to teach to a technical level remotely in VR which opens up the door to countless possibilities for remote training.”