How Enterprise Mobile Devices Have Enhanced Military Training

With many organizations turning to remote training to accommodate social distancing and good health practices, the U.S. military is using virtual training to get its service personnel prepared for duty. Using mobile devices, agencies can develop customized training approaches and leverage built-in capabilities, and enhance their sessions with artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and other advanced technologies.

Reimagining military training exercises

During the very early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pentagon canceled and cut back on training exercises, quarantined troops, closed recruiting centers, and limited foreign and domestic travel. And while officials at the time said that the U.S. military is still ready to manage any threat that may emerge, it was clear that the longer the pandemic continued, the more critical a shift in military training approaches would become.

As we moved into year two of the outbreak, the military was already in the midst of those shifts. One recent American Homefront Project report discussed how the U.S. Air Force has had to modify its “in-person” training to accommodate new social distancing rules during the global pandemic. While recruits typically spend a week navigating a simulated mission and then work as a group to review what they’ve learned, that training technique has been augmented—and in some cases, completely replaced—by more virtual training techniques.  

Similar changes have taken place in the Air Force’s training program, where trainees typically use personal protective equipment to shield themselves from the impacts of tear gas; practice applying bandages and tourniquets; and learn the value of teamwork during basic training. Much of those activities have been curtailed due to the pandemic and the need for social distancing among trainees.

How enterprise mobility supports the synthetic training environment

Much like businesses have turned to mobile devices, videoconferencing, and cloud-based software to support their suddenly-remote workforces, the military has invested in new tools that are helping it safely and effectively prepare soldiers for service. Last year, the U.S. Army began using virtual reality (VR) technology in what it calls a “synthetic training environment (STE).”

A 3D training tool, STE leverages live, virtual, constructive training plus gaming to help soldiers prepare for real-life scenarios. Through these experiences, trainees can prepare for duty without having to be within six feet of one another—yet, they can still get the experience of working on a team toward a common goal. Using mobile tools also allows trainers to work with a larger group of trainees, not all of which have to be situated in the same physical location to take part in the sessions.

With the right processing power, mobile devices can support virtual training through AR and VR simulations and provide the same level of information in the field. Equipped with a rugged laptop and/or handheld device, military personnel can practice executing their missions safely and effectively—both in-person and virtually, whichever the situation necessitates. 

Once the pandemic threat has passed, rugged laptops, handhelds, and other tools will continue to be used to move people and materials more efficiently to the theater of operations and provide access to real-time intelligence. This, in turn, improves situational awareness, speeds up informed decision-making, and improves communications.

Panasonic Tablets, like the TOUGHBOOK G2, are purpose-built, rugged enough for military use beyond virtual training, and is powered by Intel® i5 and i7 vPro™ processors, the TOUGHBOOK G2 delivers powerful performance in an efficient 10.1-inch display, and is available with Windows 10 and a long-lasting 18.5-hour battery.

Dealing with constraints, preparing for the future

With synthetic training environments supported by mobile devices, AI, AR, and VR, military agencies can more effectively deal with the constraints of the global pandemic while also modernizing training techniques that have been in place for decades. As one Army team director noted, “We can’t effectively replicate the operational environment for the future without new tools.”

A recent Frost & Sullivan report explores the use of VR and AR goggles in military training. In use pre-COVID, the technology has become critical for keeping personnel updated on training courses while also following social distancing requirements. Using VR, military agencies can create realistic training environments where troops can see, hear, smell, touch, and otherwise interact with their environments via an immersive experience.

The research firm expects military use of wearables, peripherals (i.e., gloves, chairs, and bodysuits), and AR/VR headsets to expand in the coming years, noting that these mobile devices augment simulated environments with immersive, realistic sensory feedback. It expects military training to continue moving into the virtual world post-pandemic.

There, mobile devices and other advanced technologies will support live training scenarios, virtual-only sessions, and the hybrid learning environment (similar to what’s already taking place with K-12 and advanced education in the U.S.).

The future of post-pandemic military training 

With technology playing an increasingly important role in military preparation and training, expect to see more agencies implementing mobile tools that help them more efficiently and effectively prepare troops for live military exercises and other challenging scenarios.

Whether these tools are replacing in-person training, augmenting live sessions, or reinforcing new skillsets, they’ll continue to play an important role in preparing troops for duty.