Interns with guns

At modeling and simulation caucus, Members and interns get to play at being soldier.

"Shoot him! Shoot him! He's the enemy!"

That's Congressional intern Rosemary North, egging on her friend Emily Brant at of all places a staid reception room in the Canon House Office Building. Emily is playing VICE - Virtual Interactive Combat Environment - only she's not at some high-tech arcade or a friend's house playing X-Box.

She's at at a Congressional caucus - the Congressional Modeling & Simulation Caucus -- a bipartisan group of some 20 representatives. For the caucus' inaugural expo, vendors of modeling and simulation technology filled the room with 40" TV sets, computer games and other gee-whiz technology, the Washington Post reports.

"Every industry in this country -- the medical industry, the mining industry, the urban planning industry, you name it -- can benefit from M&S," says Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.). "The U.S. military has hugely benefited from it."

Forbes, who founded the caucus last year, is also its chair. Suffolk, which is in his district, has been dubbed "Sim City" because it's a hotbed of modeling and simulation. Earlier this year, Forbes hosted the first M&S Leadership Summit there and wrote President Bush all about it.


But forget politics, this is the lobbying of cool.

There was a simulation for learning how to operate a wheeled loader, one of those gigantic trucks with a scoop on the front. A simulation for saying a respectful hello, with the right accent, in Arabic. A simulation on how to evacuate a whole town when an earthquake or a tornado or a hurricane hits.

The main draw of the exhibit, hands-down, was VICE -- as in the Virtual Interactive Combat Environment. It's a shoot-em-up reminiscent of the Xbox military game Full Spectrum Warrior, and players yesterday fired their fake M15 rifles onto the giant screen with the help of the VICE's lead programmer, who wore a long-sleeve, buttoned-up black shirt with the words "Where gaming meets training" on the back.