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Clear a mine, and later suppress riots in a town. How does the virtual reality help soldiers?

When he said to his Math teacher he was planning to go the army, she wrung her hands and uttered: But you are such a good student! Father, non-commissioned officer, military brother recalls this situation with a smile.”It was meaningful,” said Major Marcin Bielewicz, a lecturer from the Military Academy of Land Forces in Wrocław. “I became a scout and I'm a scout now because I don't stop being a scout, after all. Later I knew that army is my cup of tea.”

 

 

He became a platoon commander and later an instructor and lecturer at the Military Academy of Land Forces. He has also given lectures at civilian universities and in different countries. He specialises in command, tactics and international security. “When working in Iraq as a deputy platoon commander, I was responsible for ten people. My biggest success then was to bring them back to Poland safe and sound. I want my students to achieve similar successes, “ he said.

In his teaching practice Major has focused on a virtual reality. However, he highlights that this reality is only a support and supplement of traditional training. Since it's forbidden to strike a mine with an armoured vehicle on the military training ground, it's impossible to test your abilities in terms of an assault on a town and learn about how to command a battalion. That's why, it is necessary to find another way to let officer cadets experience all these things without any risks to people and equipment. “The worst bet is being unable to decide. Sometimes a bad decision is a better choice,” claims Major. The lack of a decision leads to the paralysis of actions while any decision may save somebody's life, even if it turned out to be a bad one with hindsight.

 

But how can we teach such decisiveness among young soldiers? After all, the virtual reality is mainly associated with games. “Our simulation systems are not BattleField, Counter Strike czy Call of Duty,” laughs dr Bielewicz, listing the names of the popular war games.”If something has to last for three days, it does. If an injured soldier is without a dressing, he won't recover very fast, hiding behind the stone. Vehicles run out of petrol and ammunition, which have to be filled up.

During his classes Major uses two simulation systems: VBS3 i PACAST. The former helps steer a soldier avatar in 3D. It assists in commanding and managing – each student manages a unit such as a mechanised battalion, fire brigade, emergency service or police office.

 

We create scripts of situations which later are entered into such systems. Students can see what consequences their decisions may have. Suppose I managed a hospital and received a task of sending an ambulance to a certain place, but I didn't notice that the ambulance hadn't come back, it would surely cause a huge problem,” explains Bielewicz.

Besides two systems, which are operated through computers and keyboards, there is also a room with the prototypes of motion simulators in the school Major teaches. We talk about two simulators: wheeled transporters, armoured Rosomak. Students can impersonate a vehicle commander and artillery platoon commander alike. Moreover, there is a shooting range called Śnieżnik, in which it is possible to work on shooting accuracy without the use of bullets.

All these things can be tried out personally as part of the Lower Silesian Science Festival. While lecturing at a civilian university, Major heard from their students that army is unneeded. “If the danger is not seen in front of home, then army is unnecessary,” says Major bitterly. “That's why I realised that with the help of the Lower Silesian Science Festival we could show that we are part of society that we are for society.

Major dr Marcin Bielewicz is a lecturer of the Institute of Command of the Military Academy of lnad Forces. He graduated from the United States Army Infantry School in Fort Benning and Naval Postgraduate School. He completed seven-month mission in Iraqi base. Afterwards, he returned to Poland to teach command and tactical officer program. He is an electronics specialist by profession and has a Ph.D. in modern history.

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