Driving simulator modernizes training, enhances skills

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Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Pedro Mota

Airman 1st Class Larry Key, 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operator dispatcher, and Senior Airman D’Andre Prempeh, 56th LRS vehicle operator trainer, review a lesson plan at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., March 6, 2018. The lesson plan supplements training on vehicle maneuvers practiced in the driving simulator.

Airmen from the 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operations flight at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., are among the forefront of Luke Airmen receiving new training technology.

In November 2017, the 56th LRS stood up a new driving cockpit simulator that allows vehicle operations Airmen to practice operating vehicles of all types without any safety risk.

“We had been looking for new ways to train incoming generations of Airmen and noticed that many of them are drawn to their phones and other electronic devices,” said Tech Sgt. Beverly Lawrence, 56th LRS section chief. “If their interests develop more and more from electronics, what better way is there to capture their attention than to have simulated reality training?”

The vehicle cockpit simulator contains three screens, a vehicle seat, a steering wheel, peddles, and a manual stick shift replica. The simulation program also contains different settings and scenarios for different vehicles and weather conditions.

Airman 1st Class Larry Key, 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operator dispatcher, trains on a driving simulator at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., March 6, 2018. The simulator helps Airmen practice their skills without safety risks.

“In the past, we’ve had Airmen who needed more time behind the wheel than the required number of hours for certification in order to feel comfortable,” Lawrence said. “With the new simulator, we can significantly increase the amount of training that Airmen receive without the added cost of fuel and materials, or any risk to the safety of people and equipment. If an Airman makes a mistake on a simulator, it’s not going to hurt anyone or damage anything.”

While being a significant new addition to the training curriculum, the vehicle driving simulator will not be the sole basis of training for new vehicle operators.

“We have two dedicated trainers who provide our Airmen with initial training in real-world conditions,” said Staff Sgt. Gregory Mangio, 56th LRS noncommissioned officer in charge of training validation and operations. “After each maneuver has been taught, the simulator is capable of increasing practice by allowing the trainee to sit down with the training manual and practice those maneuvers without taking up the time of an always-tasked dedicated trainer. There is no limitation on how much training an Airman, experienced or not, can have on the simulator.”

Sgt. Mangio is optimistic that the new simulator will not only enhance the training, but improve the skills and competency of future generations of vehicle operators at Luke.