abc7news, San Francisco, CA, 1 Sep 2005
Sept. 1 - A Bay Area software company is now helping American soldiers stay safe in Iraq. Thousands of troops are being trained with technology that was created as video game entertainment, but may now save lives.
A suicide bomber plows into an American convoy in a crowded Baghdad square. Seven people dead. Another bomber, this one dressed as a police officer, kills 20 and injures 100 more.
Fifteen die in a bombed-out building hit with a truck full of explosives hidden under a pile of watermelons.
They are the kind of incidents happening almost daily in Iraq. Ordinary moments in ordinary places that suddenly turn deadly.
Now, thanks to an Alameda company called total immersion software, the U.S. Army has a new tool to train soldiers to be ready for the unexpected.
The video game is called "Ambush." In this scenario, insurgents in a stolen Iraqi police car are manning a checkpoint that turns into an ambush.
The training program was developed specifically for the military, using commercial video game technology and incorporating real life incidents experienced by soldiers in Iraq.
Stephen Blankenship, total immersion software: "This is as close as you can get to real life without risking injury, other than maybe repetitive stress syndrome or something."
Army troops at Fort Lewis in Washington state are among the first to train with the new software.
Twenty-two members of two squads are training together to run convoys. Some are drivers, some are gunners, others, just passengers. They all play at the same time and what each person does affects the others.
After each exercise, there's a debriefing.
Sergeant Johnny Scroggins is from Weaverville, California. He's already been to Iraq and is training with soldiers who'll be going over soon.
Sgt. Johnny Scroggins, U.S. Army: "It's very realistic. All these things are happening at once and that right there is where you get your emotional, your adrenaline gets going."
The game was developed in just six months by a team of about 30 people.
The software is constantly updated with new scenarios based on what's happening in Iraq.
Lt. Col. Thomas Willmuth, U.S. Army: "We got to stay adaptive with the enemy because the enemy, as soon as something stops working, they will change their tactics."
The Army has been so pleased with the ambush video training, they've now sent it to Iraq to train soldiers who are already there.
Copyright 2005, ABC7/KGO-TV/DT.