Army leaders at Fort Benning closed the 2011 Maneuver Conference, the largest gathering ever held to focus on 21st Century Maneuver Training, on Wednesday.
With the Armor School’s move from Fort Knox, Ky., to Fort Benning, officials were able to hold one conference at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center to combine the infantry and armor under one roof instead of holding separate meetings.
The event attracted almost 4,000 visitors, including 3,000 soldiers from the Armor School and Infantry School and soldiers from throughout the world. In addition to classroom sessions, there were about 900 exhibitors with 235 displays inside and around the trade center, marketing everything from survival knives to the $750,000 MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle parked along Front Avenue.
The three-day conference, which started Monday, gave the Army a chance to share training information, said James C. Hardy, command sergeant major of the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
“What we wanted to do was to bring everybody in and see what units are doing across the Army, see what the capabilities are and what we can do that others are experiencing,” Hardy said after Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, commander at Fort Benning, closed the event about 4 p.m.
If a unit is already familiar with some types of training, that information could be shared across the Army, Hardy said.
“There is a lot of stuff going on out there,” he said.
The conference was a good mix of two communities, the armor and infantry, said Lt. Col. Matthew Boal, executive officer of the Armor School staff.
In the class sessions, Boal said he was interested in the various integration of simulation into training that the Armor School can look at.
“In a resource-constrained environment, which means time, money and people, simulation allows you to improve your training at the same time as you are conserving resources,” Boal said. “Simulation can help do all that and allows you to improve training regardless of resources.”
In a hall inside the trade center, soldiers took part in a computer simulation drill that allowed soldiers to go on a virtual foot patrol in a Middle Eastern village.
David A. Slayton, executive vice president of Dynamic Animation Systems, said directing battle drills, avoiding improvised explosive devices or IED’s and other types of training can all be conducted with the Virtual Interactive Combat Environment or VICE. Other than soldiers, the system is used to help train law enforcement, Homeland Security and other agencies that use small arms.
“Whether it’s security or homeland defense or a shooting war, they all need team training,” said Slayton, who is based in Fairfax, Va.
The MaxxPro armored vehicle caught the attention of many soldiers who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I like it,” said Sgt. Robert Smith, who is enrolled in an Advanced Leaders Course at Fort Benning. “It’s really a lot of neat stuff out here. It’s let me know what’s out there.”
Smith, 25, was concerned about the ride in the armored vehicle after injuring his wrist in a bumpy ride while deployed. He has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in his seven-years of service.
Gordon Wolverton, program manager of the MaxxPro of the Madison Heights, Mich., said the vehicle now rides like a Cadillac Escalade after some improvements.
“What we have done is introduce a new suspension,” he said.
About 950 of the trucks, which cost three-quarters of a million dollars apiece, are now in Afghanistan, protecting soldiers from IEDs and other attacks, Wolverton said.
“We have a really fantastic survivability rating in Afghanistan,” Wolverton said. “Guys walk out alive.”
Maj. Saad Ijaz of Pakistan said he enjoyed his days at the conference. He has been at Fort Benning for five months in the Maneuver Captain’s Course. “We have seen the armored vehicles, the latest and everything,” he said. “We have the same thing but here it’s more computer and simulation.”
After visiting Washington and Savannah, Ijaz said Columbus is a smaller city but nice. “It is a good nice city, calm city,” he said.