In a conference room at Booz Allen’s fifth-floor Bridge Street office, anyone wearing virtual reality headgear can instantly be standing in the open door of a military plane flying above a training facility on the United States base of the instructor’s choosing.
A first-timer wearing the contraption looks around the inside of the plane, steps to the edge of the door and is gripped by an uneasy sensation after looking down. Minutes later, the same first-timer shoots “bad guys’’ in an urban environment resembling those seen on battle footage from the Middle East, a realistic M4 that is surprisingly light providing the firepower.
There’s more, and it’s all part of Booz Allen’s Digital Soldier initiative the company displayed to media members. Company site leader and Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson, a veteran with defense department expertise, said Vice President of Global Defense Joel Dillon and Principal of Global Defense Stephanie Boone-Shaw were on a “road show’’ of sorts.
“Joel and Stephanie are demonstrating some of the capabilities Booz Allen has invested in,’’ Hudson said. “They’re demonstrating these technologies and showing everybody what Booz Allen has to offer.’’
Simulation — which Dillon said could be a big money saver for defense — is just part of Digital Soldier.
A primary talking point is “open architecture,’’ which is intended to make adding, upgrading and swapping components easy. For example, Dillon, a jumpmaster and highly decorated Army officer (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and Oak Leaf Cluster are on an impressive resume that includes a master’s from Stanford and bachelor’s from West Point) talks about the “Christmas tree’’ effect.
“Soldiers have all of these great pieces of equipment,’’ he said, “but they’re hanging off them like an ornament.’’
With body armor and all the trappings, a soldier carries an added 130 pounds. That’s more than the bulky equipment soldiers had in World War II.
Open architecture is aimed at reducing that weight and providing faster upgrades to equipment on the battlefield.
“The Army has got to modernize, got to really transform how they do business,’’ Boone-Shaw said. “The acquisition process takes too long, is way too slow. Our enemies and Near Peers have watched how the military fights and the tactics while we’ve been at war for a couple of decades.
“They also have access to technology that allowed them to catch up with their capability to the U.S. The U.S. has to maintain the advantage.’’
Speed, integration using open architecture and combining fast-improving technology such as GPS and satellites, mission adaptability and maintaining military superiority are some of the buzz words and phrases involved in Digital Soldier.
But, Dillon said, Booz Allen sets itself apart from other firms by taking a “holistic’’ approach to consider the individual. He compared the approach to the way an NFL team maintains assets such as a valuable player through everything from nutrition and condition to the best equipment and devices. These allow for better and faster decision making on the battlefield.
“I don’t know if there’s anything more valuable than the sons and daughters of our citizens,’’ he said.
Digital Soldier, Dillion said, has been initiated to give those sons and daughters their best chance at readiness, lethality, and survivability. Combining technology and making it work “synergistically’’ can produce a soldier who will be “unbeatable on the battlefield.’’
“We want to give them the best training and best equipment to get them home safely.”