MANILA, Philippines—The COVID-19 pandemic that struck in 2020 disrupted military routines, including trainings that left the Philippine Navy unit in charge of keeping ships in top shape revisiting its training methods.
The Philippine Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NSSC), which keeps ships in working condition, trains sailors who will board ships to take charge of repair and maintenance of naval vessels.
This is part of NSSC’s five-year capacity building strategy to equip its personnel with skills to render quality maintenance and repair service to the Philippine Fleet.
Because COVID-19 prevented face-to-face classes and ship visits for training, the Naval Sea Systems Training Center (NSSTC), the NSSC’s technical training school, is venturing into virtual and augmented reality to fulfill its role while also heeding health protocols, mainly social distancing.
The use of virtual reality would allow sailors on training to experience an almost real environment of laboratories.
“The NSSTC has evolved in the conduct of blended learning to cater to the technical skills requirement of the students,” said NSSC commander Rear Admiral Rommel Jason Galang, at the online launch of the Interactive Reality Learning System on Wednesday (May 5).
He said the virtual reality technology useful to the Navy was made possible by interactive platform Seaversity, which provides “an almost real experience to perform maintenance works aboard ship and specific equipment familiarization, and to conduct safe and immersive training programs for the students” ahead of their sea duties.
For NSSTC superintendent Commander Marcus Jason Bartolome, various challenges that were thrown the training school’s way pushed it to innovate and use new technology.
“This is just the start, the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of possible things that we could do with this kind of technology,” he said.
Bartolome said the school had already conducted a test run of the system in one class prior to the official launch. Nine courses are currently being offered using this system.
“We had a test run of the system to one class—the naval engineering and damage control course. This course is taken by our engineering officers who will be assigned aboard ships. They loved it,” he said.
A virtual reality room at the NSSC headquarters in Sangley Point, Cavite has been established, he said.
But for students who can’t come due to lockdowns or other reasons, the program is accessible from their homes through their mobile phones or desktops using Google Cardboard, an affordable virtual reality device.
Navy vice commander Rear Admiral Adelius Bordado, the guest of honor at the launch, commended NSSC’s ingenuity in developing new methods of training.
“This will augment the practical side. You don’t have to go to the actual practical exercise or exams or practical things that you need to develop your skills,” he said.
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