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Maj. Alex White, USMC

MOVES '21

Major Alex White began his military career after graduating from Abilene Christian University and being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in May 2009. His early assignments included serving as a platoon commander with Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion at Camp Pendleton, and deploying to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.

After various leadership roles, including Executive Officer for Company E and Company Commander roles within the School of Infantry East, White transitioned to 1st Battalion, 2d Marines. Here, he served as Assistant Operations Officer and later commanded the Headquarters and Service Company. His tenure included a deployment to Romania with the Black Sea Rotational Force 17.1 and commanding the Remain Behind Element for the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit.

White graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, in 2021 with a Master of Science degree in Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulations (MOVES) and received the Commander George L. Phillips Modeling, Virtual Environments, and Simulations Award for his thesis on networked simulation environments for fire support training.

Since September 2021, White has been serving as the Modeling and Simulations Officer at Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Atlantic, where he supports fleet training with synthetic and analog simulations and wargames. He also attended the Advanced Maneuver Warfare Course in March 2023 and is currently assigned to the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, contributing to the Analytical Integration Branch.

White’s personal decorations include three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

What stands out as the most impactful aspect of your education at NPS? How have you  applied the lessons learned at NPS to your current role at Expeditionary Warfare Training  Group, Atlantic? 

Understanding that NPS provides education and not training, the value is really in being able to communicate effectively with both non-technical training audiences  about their objectives as well as the technical simulation operators and network engineers to bridge the gap and provide cohesive solutions. It is critical to provide  the grunt to geek translation and ensure everyone involved is on the same page. Starting with clearly defined training objectives, you can then find the right systems  and tools that will work together to build a simulation environment that supports  the training event and meets the desired end state.  

Additionally, in a complex and interdisciplinary field, it is hard to overstate the importance of relationships and working with other people. The person with best  technical knowledge of a particular system may not have all the answers for a multi-architecture simulation environment, but collective knowledge and experience can  address complex challenges. Modeling and Simulation is a relatively small community within the Marine Corps, so collaboration is incredibly valuable. Even if what worked for someone else doesn’t solve my unique problem immediately, it can help me understand how to get to a solution that does. 

How are the interoperability and simulation systems principles you developed in your NPS  thesis being utilized in your current Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) at Sea project at EWTGLANT? 

It is important to have a systemic approach to taking large complex problems and  breaking them into manageable chunks. Every event needs to start with a clear  purpose, and then you can assess a current methodology or design a new one and  adapt as necessary. Starting with a foundation of explicitly defined training  objectives is essential to designing and executing training events that are worth the  time and effort. Although I rarely utilize the entire 7 step Distributed Simulation  Engineering and Execution Process the way I did during my thesis, (one of the  benefits of LVC training is repeatability with less planning and preparation effort) a  systemic approach is still critical.  

Ultimately, live virtual and constructive simulations allow for scalable training at  reduced cost and risk. Live training (real people training with real combat  equipment) is still the gold standard, but availability of training areas, ranges,  munitions, effects and capabilities means we need to replicate the capabilities,  processes, procedures, and effects that are hard to get in training. The more virtual  (real people using fake equipment [like a pilot in a flight simulator]) and constructive  simulations (computer controlled forces [people or platforms]) can be used to  augment live training, the more we can provide training audiences with high fidelity  representations of scenarios they may not be able to experience short of combat. Although some training paradigms such as small unit infantry training are not well  replicated in virtual environments, decision making and command and control are  always valuable targets for training. By replicating real world command and control  infrastructure (including people, systems, and processes) we can provide scalable  training at any echelon. To do this, as new combat and simulation systems are  designed, understanding the nature of future training means they must bake in  interoperability from the ground level.   

Based on your experience at NPS and your current role, where do you see the future of LVC going, particularly in the context of naval operations?

We are certainly not going to use any less live virtual and constructive simulation in training. Some technologies are still maturing, and as legacy standalone training systems are replaced with modern interoperable systems we will be able to connect more and more training audiences and represent more complex command and control paradigms across echelons. As we design and develop new operating concepts, force designs, and capabilities, simulation support to live force experimentation and wargaming will aid decision makers in building our future naval force. In training, particularly as low-density high-demand systems and capabilities (sensors, munitions, non-kinetic effects) become more exquisite, expensive, and unavailable for training, LVC simulation may provide the only opportunity to practice employment outside of to combat. Even if less expensive capabilities are available for training, utilizing LVC simulation in a progressive training plan ensure training audiences are prepared to make the most of the incredibly valuable but limited live fire training opportunities. Additionally, the ability to train with new weapons, sensors, and other capabilities in a secure virtual environment will allow our forces to conduct meaningful realistic training without providing potential adversaries an opportunity to collect information regarding capabilities, or tactics, techniques and procedures. 

In your view, what is the most valuable aspect of participating in the MOVES Open House as an alumnus? Can you tell us about some of the interesting presentations, projects or emerging trends happening at MOVES that were discussed during the event?
 

Again, it's difficult to overstate the importance of relationships and connections with the wide array of professionals and experts working through different challenges. The MOVES Open House is a great opportunity to get smart people with varied perspectives in the same room, understand some of the challenges and problem sets people are working on, and see what innovation or progress is being made. It's always good to connect with the broader M&S community and understand how other organizations are addressing similar problems from different perspectives and find opportunities for collaboration.

From a training perspective, it's impressive to see some of the novel ideas that break from traditional training methods and deliver more and better sets and reps to where the training audience can get the most out of it. The technology is still maturing, but Augmented Reality will absolutely be a game changer for low cost repeatable training, particularly for classroom or laboratory type environments and for tasks requiring expensive, fragile, or otherwise hard to get equipment. I can't give a classroom full of LCAC maintenance students their own engines to practice on, but if I can give each of them a headset with a virtualized engine they can get as many sets and reps as needed before testing out on one real engine. The other concept I thought was brilliant, yet simple, was utilizing a handheld PC for low fidelity procedural training, especially in confined areas where dedicated training spaces are unavailable (ships or submarines). 

Considering the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of the field, how can the MOVES Institute at NPS contribute to the overall advancement of modeling, virtual environments and simulations across the DON and the DOD? 

I can't bang the drum hard enough that collaboration is everything. The MOVES Institute has a valuable role in connecting students (and their thesis research opportunities) with alumni and current fleet problems along with the expertise and resources of academia and industry. It is important to ensure students have broad perspectives rooted in the current challenges and efforts the services are making as they leverage their unique operational experiences to gain technical education.

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