Archive for Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top state legislators learn ins and outs of Fort Leavenworth during Friday tour

May 24, 2011

— After Lt. Col. Russell Rhoads demonstrated how gaming software could be used to allow soldiers, first responders and others to retrace their steps and see what they could have done better, State Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, had a question.

“Could we develop this for the Legislature?” Schmidt asked, and other lawmakers in the room laughed.

A group of state legislators, including several House and Senate leaders, were at Fort Leavenworth on Friday, learning from leaders there about the variety of activities that happen at the post and how it interacts with nearby communities and the rest of the state.

Rhoads, who works at the National Simulation Center, part of the Combined Arms Center at the post, discussed how gaming software developed originally for training military units could be used by the Kansas National Guard and first responders to train for responding to disasters.

He played a video of a sequence from the software showing a re-creation of the town of Greensburg on the day it was struck by a devastating tornado in 2007.

The software developed at the NSC, Rhoads said, is fairly similar to video games designed for amusement, with one major difference.

“What makes our game — this simulation we call a game — different is its ability to be edited for specific training,” Rhoads said.

Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, said he was aware of the importance of gaming software in military preparation but did not know that the developers at Fort Leavenworth had designed it for other uses.

“The Greensburg example was very interesting,” O’Neal said.

The lawmakers learned about other ways that on-post life mixes with the communities surrounding the fort, as well, including the process of privatizing the on-post lodging into a Holiday Inn Express and special-education services provided by other Leavenworth County school districts for children living on the post.

State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said it was his first time taking a formal tour of Fort Leavenworth.

He said the fort’s technological capabilities and its economic impact — estimated at about $3.7 billion in 2010 by the fort — meant it was something for Kansans to recognize and celebrate.

“It will have long-term, lasting positive impacts on northeast Kansas and the Midwest,” Holland said.

In addition to taking in presentations, the lawmakers toured the fort and met with students at its Command and General Staff College and their families.


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