WASHINGTON — Maj. Gen. Maria Gervais has led the Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team as part of Army Futures Command since its inception a few years ago, and already the STE has made great strides in bringing state-of-the-art training to the force.
Defense News spoke with Gervais just ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference, which took place virtually Oct. 13-16, about how the STE team is marching forward. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What’s the latest on the development of the Training Simulation Software and the Training Management Tool that make up the Common Synthetic Environment along with One World Terrain?
We’ve made good progress, but we’re not quite where we would like to be. We’re continuing to work with the vendor, but we’re actually going to get ready to put another [other transaction authority] out on the street to kind of widen — cast our net — a little bit further to bring in vendors to tackle this. The technology’s here — we just have to work some things with the integration piece of it, and I think we’re on a good glide path for that.
What are the integration challenges?
I think it’s important from a user community [that we] make sure that the requirement is articulated in a manner that’s understood and also that industry understands what we’re trying to achieve. I think through that process we had to make sure that we clarified some things to a degree. What makes sense to me: We have to make sure that translates into what the vendor understands, so I think we had some challenges with that understanding and we’ve clarified a lot of that through the process. I think we’re going to overcome any hurdles that we have because I know the technology is there, I’ve seen it.
What steps are you taking to enhance the overall training experience?
Our next effort is our focus on our engagement system, our live force-on-force. So think laser tag, but also force-on-target, to train in that live environment.
What I used when I came [into the Army] is pretty similar to stuff that we use. So our senior leaders have asked us: How can we improve our live environment? How can we get after it to fill some of the limitations that we have? And then also, how can we improve this engagement system, or I-MILES or direct fire engagement that we put on our individuals or our platforms so that when we go out into our combat training centers and also at home station, we have the ability to train?
Right now we have OTAs that are currently ongoing looking at different ways, prototypes, different technology. We’re kind of getting the understanding what’s in the realm of the possible. and we are going to work that so that we can try to bring in this capability starting in fiscal 2026. That’s pretty aggressive for what we need to do, but we’ve shown that aggressive can be done.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.