On January 10, 1991, the U.S. Army Intelligence School Devens (USAISD) introduced the Basic Morse Mission Trainer to the 98H Morse intercept operator and 98D emitter identifier/locator advanced individual training courses. This system revolutionized the training of Morse code copying skills for both students and instructors, reducing course attrition, and turning out better trained operators faster.
In April 1985, the deputy secretary of defense had approved the consolidation of all four military services’ manual Morse intercept training at USAISD, located at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. By 1988, consolidated training was in full swing, but instructors struggled with high attrition rates and student burnout in the basic Morse course. Mitigation measures included shortening the training day, standing up a diagnostic laboratory to help identify learning patterns of Morse students, and developing an aptitude test to predict student success in the course.
Perhaps the most significant factor to reducing course failures, however, was the introduction of the Basic Morse Mission Trainer (BMMT) to teach touch-typing and basic Morse code. Developed by Russell Beller and Kevin Mott, two civilian instructors in USAISD’s Morse Collection Department (MCD), the new computer-based system would replace the antiquated Morse Code Trainer (MCT)-4 in use since the late 1960s. The Army awarded a procurement contract to Engineering Research Associates on April 19, 1989 which delivered the new systems in October 1990. Three months later, on January 10, 1991, the BMMT was used for the first time in training.
The BMMT was comprised of eleven classrooms, each with thirty student positions, allowing for the training of up to 330 students simultaneously. Each classroom had two instructor stations, from which the instructors could monitor all the students’ progress at the same time. The BMMT provided students with immediate feedback when they made mistakes and a score every fifty-character block of code, unlike the MCT-4 that only gave students their best score every hour. Supporting the BMMT was a Software Support Center that allowed instructors to maintain and run statistical reports and draft and modify courseware. Finally, a BMMT Resource Center helped instructors develop special remedial training for at-risk students.
The BMMT was an immediate hit with students and instructors alike. The MCD director, Lt. Col. Roy D. McGinnis, declared, “We’ve literally jumped forward twenty years technologically speaking,” while an instructor stated, “It’s like comparing a color TV to a black-and-white.” The BMMT contributed to more effective training which lowered attrition rates from 26.1 percent to 9.5 percent in just one year and decreased the amount of time students needed to complete the basic Morse course from seventy days to fifty-three days. Not only could USAISD move students to their field assignments more rapidly, lower attrition rates meant less recruitment and savings in training dollars.
Both Beller and Mott received Commander’s Awards for Civil Service for their development and procurement of the BMMT. Additionally, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command declared it the “Best Use of Training Technology” when presenting USAISD with its Commander’s Award for Excellence.