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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Virtual Reality War


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My battalion commander, Lt. Col. Michael Kurilla, gave the directive that my squad leaders, platoon sergeant, and myself had heard countless times: my platoon was to cordon and search a neighborhood that intelligence had indicated might be the whereabouts of a high value target.

As our vehicles navigated to the neighborhood through a busy marketplace, an improvised explosive device detonated, and the vehicle became immobile. Then we started taking small-arms fire, and headquarters started peppering us for an immediate situational report. We started taking casualties, and I lost communication with one of my squad leaders.

Thankfully this was not an actual patrol in Afghanistan or Iraq. We were in the simulation training center at Fort Lewis, in Washington State, where soldiers undergo virtual reality training on battlefield scenarios. An instant giveaway that this was not a typical army mission was the temperature of the building, kept at low temperatures to cool the numerous computers which were required to run the simulation.

At first my soldiers smirked when my platoon sergeant told them about this training event.

From The New York Times
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