The U.S. Air Force has started using virtual reality technology in its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Training (SAPR). The USAF has partnered with award-winning developer Moth+Flame to create a more immersive SAPR training platform. This was first introduced to airmen at the Joint Base in Charleston, South Carolina.
The SAPR training program is a three-part multifaceted curriculum. It places trainees in simulated real-world situations that change in real time through vocal cues.
Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost championed the efforts to employ immersive training. Through these innovative programs, the USAF hopes to take more proactive steps in combating sexual assault in the military.
Using VR Technology to Combat Sexual Assault in the U.S. Air Force
This comes at an opportune time, with the alarming cases of sexual assault reports within the military. From 2018 to 2019, the total number of sexual assault reports, particularly within the Air Force, jumped from 1,544 to 1,683. Reports of sexual assault in 2020, which included unrestricted reports and reports classified as “remaining restricted,” totaled 1,661, as evidenced in one of the U.S. Department of Defense’s SAPR reports.
Moreover, the number of sexual assault reports for incidents that occurred during military service is seeing an upward trend. From 1,271 cases in 2018, the numbers have jumped to 1,388 in 2019 and 1,390 in 2020.
SAPR Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Carmen Schott, stated in a press release shared with ARPost that having the SAPR training in a virtual space allows airmen “to be present and connected to the experience.”
The SAPR Training Modules
The SAPR training modules feature conversational simulations that make use of natural language processing technology. This allows trainees to respond in real time to conversations that emulate realistic spoken dialogues.
The modules include several 30-minute role-play scenarios with different functions.
There are two scenarios designed for all Air Force personnel. One scenario is aimed at Volunteer Victim Advocates, while another scenario targets Squadron Leadership. They simulate various real-life situations, including helping a sexual assault victim connect with the appropriate resources, correctly implementing Air Force guidelines when dealing with sexual assault in the workplace, and improving volunteer skills, particularly providing information and support to sexual assault victims.
Future Plans and Hopes for Incorporating VR Technology in U.S. Air Force Trainings
Currently, two bases have received this new training equipment, including Charleston. The plan is to distribute and implement it across the entire country.
Schott added that the new VR technology training program will hopefully enhance the airmen’s comprehension of key sexual assault report options and resources. Incorporating this innovative technology in SAPR training will equip them to better handle complex situations and help fellow airmen in need.
The new training curriculum will equip trainees with the right set of skills and knowledge to confront pressing issues and difficult situations. This, in turn, paves the way for the development of smarter and safer teams that are more responsive, according to Moth+Flame CEO, Kevin Cornish.