!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: A Simulation that Helps with Counterinsurgency Training

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Simulation that Helps with Counterinsurgency Training

The US military, even more than organizations in the private sector, is stepping up the pace at which it implements simulations for training. A recent example — UrbanSim — is described in a brief item in the January/February 2010 issue of The Atlantic.

Brian Mockenhaupt, a freelance journalist and former infantryman who served in Iraq, explains that the object of UrbanSim is to tilt the support of the local population in a war zone toward a U.S.-led coalition and the local government.

The game's scenarios involve named local individuals (e.g., the mayor of a town) and groups (e.g., a neighborhood), all of which are "autonomous agents that react not just to specific actions, but to the climate created by a player's overall strategy."

The intent of the simulation is to
teach commanders new ways of thinking about multiple problems in a fast-changing environment, always reevaluating instead of fixating on one approach. “You have to think through the cause and effect of your decisions,” said Colonel Todd Ebel, the director of the School for Command Preparation [where UrbanSim was first used]. “Like chess, you have to look two or three turns down the road.”
In UrbanSim, players in two-person teams take on the role of an Army battalion commander who has to plan, prepare, and execute counterinsurgency operations. The commander's task, as explained at the UrbanSim website, is to "maintain stability [a particular focus of the simulation], fight insurgency, reconstruct the civil infrastructure, and prepare for transition." Progress is measured in terms of impacts on:
  • governance

  • economics

  • security

  • essential services

  • capabilities of local police and soldiers
Teams receive feedback from an intelligent tutoring system (ITS) as they're working their way through whatever scenario their trainers have set up for them. The ITS is designed to help participants understand why the local individuals and groups built into the scenario react in paticular ways, given the state of the world in which they find themselves, a state significantly affected by what the battalion commander has decided to do. The ITS can also indicate the response an alternate decision by the battalion commander would have elicited from the local individuals and groups.

For more details of how UrbanSim was created and how it works, you can see a paper (pdf) co-authored by key participants in its development: Ryan McAlinden, H. Chad Lane, and Andrew S. Gordon of the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California; Paula J. Durlach of the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences; and John Hart of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command Simulation and Training Technology Center.


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