JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas — Virtual reality goggles and body-worn sensors are helping to take technical education to the next level at the Inter-American Air Forces Academy here. The equipment is part of a virtual reality simulator and is some of the latest equipment used to train international military students from partner countries.
The SV-R simulator is used to train military and law enforcement students from Latin America, with a focus on counter-narcotics operations and countering transnational criminal organizations.
“This will greatly improve the education of our students,” said Master Sgt. Ricardo Alonso, IAAFA’s Chief of Standardization and Evaluation, who helped bring the technology to the academy. “Many of them have never been in a training environment like this.”
The SV-R simulator allows instructors to create an infinite number of scenarios in a realistic training environment. As Alonso explained, “Even change the factors in how lethally we as military police or law enforcement officers have to react.” The simulator renders the user as an avatar and allows users to realistically interact with each other, creating a lifelike environment. The cutting-edge technology is implemented into the IAAFA syllabi for Special Reactions Team and Ground Defense Leadership courses, which allow new and advanced students to train in a controlled environment.
“We’re trying to teach students something that’s more realistic but also safe,” Alonso said. “So we first evaluate their tactics in a virtual room and then take them to the shooting range with edged weapons.”
The IAAFA is accelerating change by implementing this cutting-edge technology for its security forces. According to Alonso, it also serves as a model for the technical training of security forces considering the implementation of similar technology. Accelerating change has been a common theme for the Academy, which continues to modernize to meet the demands of a strategic competitive environment.
The academy also recently acquired a modular training shooting house to be used as part of a graduation exercise for students in the Ground Defense Leadership and Special Reactions Team courses. The Shooting House is made from modular wooden panels that can be easily moved and reconfigured into different layouts to ensure students remain challenged.
The facility, located in the heart of the IAAFA campus, eliminates the need to transport students across town to Camp Bullis for similar training, saving time and money.
The move to modernize training is also evident in an A-29 cockpit simulator recently acquired by the Academy.
“This is unlike anything we have here,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Woolf, IAAFA Chief of Strategic Plans and Programs, who oversees the A-29 Assembly. “It’s a real asset used by five Latin American countries, so it unlocks a lot of different core competencies that we can teach our students from partner countries.”
The simulator was transported from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, in late November and is currently awaiting deployment. The A-29 Super Tucano will be added to the Pilot Instrument Procedures Course curriculum this academic year, with plans for expansion in other courses based on Combatant Command objectives and partner nation needs.
“As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the IAAFA, our team continues to seek innovative ways to bring impactful and relevant academics to our Latin American partners,” said Col. José Jiménez, Jr., IAAFA Commander. “We must meet the needs of our customers and keep pace with our strategic competitors.”