Send the Marines to Language LabBy Alison Diana | Posted 2006-05-22 Email Print
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Case Study: Trofholz Technologies helps Marines prepare for foreign service with high-end display and collaboration technology.They train for weeks, learning combat and disarmament skills, educating themselves in psychological and physical warfareas well as foreign languages and cultures. In fact, while they are the few and the proud, even the Marines can need help when it comes to assimilating and operating in a foreign land, dealing with different languages and ways of life.
Armed with a new high-end training solution, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College recently prepared 174 students for temporary life in Arabic-speaking nations, said Linda Rohler, operations manager and registrar at the Quantico, Va., facility.
The program was designed to help field grade officerssuch as majors and lieutenant commanders who are responsible for military planningimprove their effectiveness, partly by educating them in foreign languages and cultures.
But this solution did not come about without the type of teamwork for which the Marines are famous.
Trofholz Technologies and its partners worked together to overcome real estate problems and time constraints to deliver two MTS (Modular Training System) units, replete with student and instructor workstations, sophisticated collaborative technologies, and satellite television reception.
"Trofholz Technologies has been really responsive to any request we've made," Rohler said.
Even in a time of war, government real estate is at a premium, and the college did not have enough space to facilitate the two full-time language labs it needed to educate up to 195 students attending the institution each 44-week semester, Rohler said.
Yet, just as the Marines frequently overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, with the help of solution provider Trofholz Technologies and its vendor partners, the Marines were able to get the solution they required.
The college needed two separate classrooms, kitted out with 16 student desktop PCs and an instructor workstation.
Since officers were being taught a language that uses a different alphabet, it was especially important to have collaborative and high-end display technologies, as well as the capability to create custom course work and CDs for independent study.
"To be able to bring in a temporary structure that comes fully equipped is really a great asset to the school," said Rohler.
Marine Corps headquarters initially contacted Trofholz Technologies, requesting a bid for the design, installation and support of MTS units at various military bases, including some on foreign soil, said Mike Russell, program manager at Trofholz Technologies, in Rocklin, Calif. Based on the competitive nature of its bid, plus the solution provider's experience providing MTS to other military and government agencies, such as the U.S. Army and the Defense Language Institute, Trofholz Technologies won the contract.
"They came to us and said, 'We want this,'" Russell said. "We went out and did a request for information and testing."
Having seen a need for portable training facilities for military, government and corporate clients, Trofholz Technologies spent several years designing a portable training facility, Russell said. Despite its investment in time and money to develop this solution, Trofholz Technologies further customizes each facility to individual clients' requirements.
"We'll physically do a site survey, and we'll adapt the solution to their needs. That's the key: We can adapt it," said Russell. "It's taken us about two years to build and develop the adaptability."
In the case of the Marines, Trofholz Technologies worked with Smart Technologies, of Calgary, Alberta, and its interactive, collaborative technologies, as well as Hughes Network Systems, in Germantown, Md., for its satellite television capabilities, Russell said.
While this marked the first time the solution provider had worked with Hughesand only in a limited capacityTrofholz Technologies has an ongoing relationship with Smart Technologies that dates back more than five years to an Army MTS installation in Monterey, Calif., Russell said.
"We work with them a lot," he said. "Their Smart Boards and their software were integrated into the Modular Training System in an extremely smooth fashion. Their hardware is extremely robust, and their software is phenomenal. That's why we've partnered with them many, many times."
Trofholz Technologies first encountered Smart Technologies when the solution provider put out a request for information for the Army MTS solution. The Army wanted to do away with its whiteboards, so Trofholz explored options from several vendors of interactive, PC-based boards, Russell said.
"Smart obviously met the majority of the criteria. They are constantly improving, constantly adaptingand we like that fact," Russell said of the ongoing relationship. "They're very responsive to requests for features we get from our customers. It is so rare for folks to be receptive to requests for a certain capability."
In the case of the Marines' MTS units, the 16 student workstations and one teacher workstation are not networked to each other or the Corps' network. This provides additional security and allows students and instructors to download information from foreign sites often blocked on the organization's networks, Rohler said.
"We also have available 11 Arabic TV channels and two French channels via DirecTV," Rohler said.
Whether in a boardroom or a war zone, collaboration is crucial, said David Martin, chairman and co-CEO of Smart Technologies. "It's all about engagement," he said. "You can't be looking out the window in this type of classroom."
In fact, Smart Technologies' products are in use in the Pentagon, the Situation Room of the White House and other command and control posts, said Martin. "It's about, in a crisis environment, being able to see what's going on at the same time you're listening," Martin added.
Having delivered the trailer, Trofholz Technologies installs devices that meet the client's specific needs. In the case of the Marine Corps, the college wanted Windows XP-based PCs by MPC Computers that could adapt to an ever-changing learning environment and meet the Department of Defense's language proficiency testing requirements, said Russell. At the request of the Marine Corps, the solution provider also installed softwaresuch as a keylogging program to prevent visits to unauthorized Web sitesas well as a Brother Industries multifunction device.
The Marines will continue to rely on Trofholz Technologies to support its two language classrooms. After setup, Russell taught an introductory class for instructors, gave an overview to faculty and provided technical training to the system administrators, Rohler said.
In the future, more MTS units could be deployed outside of the United States, said Russell. The air-conditioned trailers can be equipped with generators for regions without electricity, and they can easily be moved.
"We can apply this solution to many different scenarios," Russell said. "Troops, especially the Marines, are deployed for a long time. They could deploy this with them."
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