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Air Advisors prepare for missions using virtual reality

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Luther Mitchell Jr.
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

Air Advisors assigned to the 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron are using virtual reality to enhance their language learning program and take their advisory role to the next level.

“Language maintenance is a key aspect of the success of the 818th MSAS language program and building relationships with our African partners,” said Staff Sgt. Hamed Beugre, 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron air advisor. “Allowing members to maintain the ability to converse with our counterparts is a cornerstone of the unique mission set it supports.”

The 818th MSAS is now in possession of fifteen Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality headsets and hand controllers, equipped with four modules of African French immersion scenarios. 

The software provides interactive scenarios that give air advisors the opportunity to make mistakes and learn cultural and linguistic factors unique to Africa before departing on a real-world mission.

“You can practice specific scenarios that may be encountered in Africa such as navigating police checkpoints, ordering food, and checking into a hotel,” Beugre said. “This allows the member to not only practice their language abilities, but also see what skills they need to brush up before departing for the continent.”

The topics comprise: key leader engagement in West African country and North African country, checkpoint stop on rural highway in West African country and encounter on air base in West African country, with African counterpart, upset about evaluation report.

Air advisors can access the program at the Dr. Clive Roberts Language Lab in Bldg. 1907, opened in September 2019, to provide Airmen with a better way to learn and enhance their French. It offers traditional and unique ways to brush up on French, including books, board games, study booths and French TV shows.

The 818th MSAS Airmen travel to roughly 20 different countries in Africa throughout the year on a variety of relationship-building and knowledge-sharing missions. These missions require that they be able to communicate in the local language, which is usually French or English.

During COVID-19, air advisors realized the importance of creating ways for members to maintain and increase their language abilities without the chance of travelling or in-person learning. For them, the Oculus virtual reality system has been an answer to that problem.

“The point of this VR software is to prepare air advisors for complicated situations they may face on a mission in a foreign language, in this case French,” said U.S Air Force Tech. Sgt. Guillaume Allardice, 818th MSAS air advisor. “The reason we do this in virtual reality is because, there is never enough cadre to run each individual through practice scenarios.”

The 818th MSAS acquired the VR equipment six months ago and though it hasn’t rolled it out completely across the squadron, members are positive about the impact it will have on future missions.

“This program is a big bonus to our training,” Beugre said. “I’m super excited.”