Com­puter sim­u­la­tor preps mil­i­tary chap­lains for the bat­tle­field


The an­i­mated fig­ure on the com­puter screen moves care­fully among the wounded, dart­ing from one fallen fig­ure to an­other. Trail­ing the com­bat medics, the uni­formed mil­i­tary chap­lain kneels and per­forms “spir­i­tual triage,” assess­ing who is dead, who is soon to die, and who is likely to sur­vive.

For the dead, there is silent prayer; for the gravely wounded and those in pain, there are words of com­fort. Check­ing dog tags to de­ter­mine the faith of the fallen, the pas­tor uses lan­guage con­sis­tent with each faith tra­di­tion. At each point in the ac­tion, a prompt asks users what they think is the ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse, and then of­fers them feed­back on their choices.

Veter­ans say noth­ing short of the real thing pre­pares some­one for serv­ing un­der fire, but a com­puter sim­u­la­tion com­pany here has been awarded a $1,00,000 devel­op­ment con­tract by the US Army Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory’s sim­u­la­tion-tech­nol­ogy cen­tre, also in Or­lando, to de­velop a pro­gramme de­signed to help prospec­tive mil­i­tary chap­lains.

A pro­to­type, to in­clude a va­ri­ety of bat­tle­field sce­nar­ios and vi­gnettes, is ex­pected to be de­liv­ered to the Army by the mid­dle of this year, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials at the lab. If ac­cepted by the De­part­ment of De­fense, it is likely to be­come part of the cur­ricu­lum at the chap­lain train­ing school at Fort Jack­son in Columbia, South Carolina.

The com­puter-sim­u­la­tion pro­gramme is de­signed pri­mar­ily for those who will serve in harm’s way in Afghanistan through the promised US pull­out in 2014, and in fu­ture con­flicts. How­ever, de­vel­op­ers say the sim­u­la­tion will re­main rel­e­vant for any ter­ror­ist at­tack or nat­u­ral dis­as­ter in­volv­ing mass ca­su­al­ties.

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