August 20, 2007:
The growth of
combat robot use in Iraq (from 126 in 2004, to over 4,000 now), has resulted in
a huge demand for troops trained to use, or, as some put it,
"wrangle", the bots. Most
soldiers require only a few hours of training and using the robot to be ready
for combat operations. This is largely because the robot controllers are based
on video game controllers. Most troops grew up with video games, and have no
trouble getting used to a new controller.
Hundreds of the robots are
assigned to training areas in Germany, Kuwait and the United States, where
soldiers are trained before sent off to the combat zones. Troops are eager to
use the robots. The word has gotten around that the devices work quite well,
and save lives. Most of the bots are used to check for roadside bombs, but
increasing numbers are used by the infantry (to check out caves, bunkers and
dark, dangerous places in general) and for guard duty.
Operating a bot is no longer
seen as a rare skill. Now, the goal is for every platoon (a unit of about 30
troops) to have several qualified robot operators. Most of the bots are one of
four different models (MARCbot, PacBot, Talon and the Mini-Andros).