By Jerry Merideth
USAMEB Public Affairs
April 24, 2017
FORT KNOX, Ky. - The Army's Mission Support Battalion launched its newest national outreach asset April 21, to support key recruiting events across the country.
The Mobile Usability Lab Exhibit, just one of the outreach fleet vehicles operated by the Fort Knox-based MSB, is a rolling display packed with technology and interactive exhibits designed to give Americans a unique Army experience.
MSB vehicles are designed to capture the public's attention, according to Mobile Exhibit Company Commander Capt. Thomas J. Miller. He said it takes months of planning, testing and building to launch a new rolling display like the MULE.
"Each time we build an asset, we consider how people will move from display to display," Miller said. "That includes safety and making the experience the best possible for visitors. Some of our newest additions to our display vehicles included virtual reality technology with military scenarios. We also have kept hands-on exhibits like the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle that allows multiple participants to be passenger, driver and gunner.
"We do our best to make sure it's as realistic as possible," Miller said. "We may not be able to bring every American to the Army but we can definitely bring the Army experience to communities across America."
The MULE is a huge vehicle with an entrance on the front and an exit in the rear. The space inside is 7 feet tall and 15 feet wide. When parked, the exhibit extends on one side for extra space. Images on the sides are larger than life and showcase the range of specialties and people that make up the Army.
Inside the trailer are four rooms where participants gather information, plan strategy, and tackle a military exercise via a computer simulation.
The rear of the trailer is dedicated to emphasizing the dangers of distracted driving and how the Army trains to mitigate these roadway hazards. Visitors can attempt to maneuver through a residential course while dealing with the effects that simulate impaired driving such as blurred vision and slowed reaction time.
The MULE boasts cutting-edge technology, including curved video screens and augmented reality software. There are also hands-on activities, such as the virtual sand table where participants can learn terrain features by manipulating sand and watching grid lines change in real time.
Innovation and testing are important facets, said Col. Janet Holliday, commander, U.S. Army Marketing and Engagement Brigade.
"Through innovation and research, we have been able to develop the MULE," Holliday said. "This asset will better allow us to reach America and tell the Army story. Sometimes you have just one chance to reach young Americans and the people that shape their lives. Assets like the MULE allow us to be effective in engaging (community partners) and prospects."
MSB vehicles bring the Army experience to America's backyard by supporting events like high school career days, county fairs and college football games almost 365 days a year.
The mission supports Army Recruiting Command and Cadet Command by providing a focal point to attract potential future Soldiers and officers, along with community partners such as educators, community leaders and parents.
Key to that mission are the Soldier exhibitors, from a variety of occupational backgrounds, who travel with the rolling displays. Each exhibitor is a trained recruiter with years of experience. That experience and ability to connect with America are vital, according to battalion leaders.
Reaching America to tell the Army story is more important today than ever, according to MSB Commander Lt. Col. Mario Washington.
"The Army's footprint in America has grown smaller during the last two generations as we have closed bases and realigned our forces," Washington said. "Often times, the exhibitors in our vehicles are the only Soldiers that Americans will meet during a year. It's important that we make the best impression possible and tell the Army story."