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U.S. Marines use computer war games to train for battle

marine training with game

April 8, 1996
Web posted at: 12:00 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For years, playing video games on government computers has been banned. Now, the U.S. Marines are encouraging their troops to log on and fire away.

Call it virtual warfare. For months, Marine fire teams have been training at computer labs in Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina -- learning battlefield tactics and decision-making. Commanders say the war games save money and lives.

"If they spend a whole lot of time doing that, in an operating environment that's kind of confusing, noisy, like a real battlefield situation would be, then they will be that much more effective as a unit in a real battlefield environment, " says Marine Sgt. Dan Snyder.

marines on computer

Any computer game junkie would recognize the program as an adaptation of a popular video game. That's because its developers altered the game "Doom" by substituting monsters with Marines and fantasy weapons with M-16's.

The Marines are focusing on several other video games to enhance standard field training, which is costly and time consuming.

Besides saving taxpayer dollars, officers point out the games can eventually be reprogrammed with the floor plans of U.S. embassies. That way, Marines could prepare rescue missions in advance in case of situations like the 1979 seizure of U.S. diplomats in Iran.

Col. Hanover

Marine Col. Paul Hanover says having a mental image helps. "Does the hall continue, or does the hall stop. Is this room an air conditioning closet or is this an office where I could have the bad guys, the opposing force, lurking," explains Hanover.

The biggest advantage to computer war games is that they allow players to live and laugh about their mistakes.

"The battlefield is still chaotic, a very dangerous, bloody business," says Marine Lt. Gen. Paul van Riper. "What we are trying to do is ensure that we don't have any more casualties than necessary when we get on that battlefield."

From Correspondent Kathleen Koch


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