Support: The Big Show for Training Tools

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November 14, 2005: The tools of military training have become big business. This is largely due to computers, especially smaller and cheaper computers, and a lot more ideas on how to train troops. Evidence of this can be seen in the evolution of a trade show for training devices and techniques. This is IITSEC (Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference). This year (November 28-December 1 in, where else, Orlando, Florida), the event has nearly 20,000 people attending, with over 400 exhibitors and some 4,000 people there to give papers, demonstrations and the like. Fourteen percent of those attending are government officials (13 percent non U.S.) Most of those attending are in the industry, including nearly 2,000 from 44 other countries.

Military training devices have been around for centuries, but in the last half century, their diversity and number have grown enormously. The IITSEC show actually traces its origins back to 1966, as the Naval Training Device Center/Industry Conference. This was not a trade show, as much as a meeting of users and developers of training equipment for sailors. The navy had long used such simulation gear, as a way to avoid losing equipment, or ships, while new sailors learned the ropes, so to speak. But the other services used the same kind of simulation gear and training aids. By the 1970s, the conference included all the services. During the 1990s, the conference turned into a trade show, a process that just sort of evolved because developers often brought samples, to accompany their lectures. The lectures were often demonstrations as well, throughout the conference. And by the 1990s, the PC, and Internet, revolution was producing a flood of new training equipment. This included simulators for many items of military equipment, as well as weapons. Some of this stuff was actually modified commercial simulations (like what you could buy in a software store), although most was custom made.

The show is still part conference, with over a hundred talks ("presentation of papers") and panels put on. It's basically an opportunity for people in the military training community to get together, compare notes and push new ideas. These days, there's a lot to note. The 1991 Gulf War was, to military professionals, the triumph of American training equipment and techniques. That's why, during the 1990s, foreign armed forces that wanted to achieve the quality levels of U.S. troops, knew they had to show up for the annual IITSEC show. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have only confirmed that, making IITSEC the most important military training gathering on the planet. Another element is the location, Orlando. The second largest industry in the region is software development, and the largest component of that is software for military purposes, including training devices and simulations.

 


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