Sunday, December 30, 2012

'Spiritual Triage' Training for Military Chaplains in Orlando

'Spiritual Triage' Training for Military Chaplains
Dec 25, 2012
Orlando Sentinel
by Richard Burnett

During more than a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military chaplains often found themselves caught between heaven and hell: one moment leading a prayer service, the next dodging enemy fire to be at the side of a dying soldier.

From loss, grief and post-traumatic stress to plain old holiday blues, combat chaplains have seen it all in responding to calls for help from soldiers struggling with issues of faith and doubt, life and death.

Now, with the U.S. out of Iraq, operations winding down in Afghanistan and military spending under budget-cutting pressure, the Army is calling on Central Florida's computer-simulation training industry to create new "virtual" exercises for chaplains -- at a bargain price.

By all accounts, it is the first time the local training-simulation industry has tackled the sometimes thorny issue of war and faith. Considered the country's largest cluster of military-training contractors, the local industry is known more for high-tech weapons simulators than for counseling simulations -- much less religious ones.

Yet training-simulation engineers in Orlando are now crafting "serious-game" software to lead chaplains through a "virtual battlefield" in which they respond to injured and dying soldiers. Dubbed the "Spiritual Triage Trainer," it is based on a combat-medic training simulator that the Army has been using for the past several years.

"The Army's chaplain school really doesn't have a budget for these kinds of things, so we were looking for something we already have that we could reuse," said Beth Pettit, chief of medical-simulation training at the U.S. Army Research Lab's simulation-technology center in Orlando. "We saw this as low-hanging fruit: a low-cost system that could be turned around relatively quickly."
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