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Biskupski kicks off Navy Week in the shoes of a sailor

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SALT LAKE CITY— Mayor Jackie Biskupski kicked off Navy Week in Salt Lake City on a special mission, piloting a high-speed boat and extracting a team of Navy SEALs in a virtual reality simulation.

Biskupski joined Rear Adm. Moises DelToro III, commander of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, at the Utah State Fair for a tour of the Nimitz Experience. Stepping onto the 18-wheeled trailer where the virtual reality simulators are housed, Biskupski was given a briefing of her mission to extract a team of Navy SEALs by boat.

She would be a crew member on a special warfare combatant craft and carry out special operations missions alongside SEAL teams using high-speed boats laden with firepower. The craft supports SEAL teams as they infiltrate their target and return from their missions.

After her briefing, Biskupski put on a virtual reality headset and a SubPac wearable vest, which vibrates to give the wearer a sensation of the movement and atmosphere of a combat zone. She took her place behind the helm of the high-speed boat, driving it up a river in the cover of night. Using night vision goggles, she could see the gunfire illuminated through the dark as the members of her boat provided covering fire to allow the SEALs the chance to escape.

"The reality of the scene that they put you in is pretty awesome," DelToro said. The SubPacs provide a sensory representation of the experience and what it's like to feel the recoil of the guns and the thrust of the boat's engines.

"It's a real, immersive kind of experience," he said.

While he could talk at length about his 30 years of experience in the Navy, where he primarily worked with submarines, DelToro said the virtual reality experience provides an opportunity to really feel what is happening and what the job is like.

"You see what those sailors do instead of a sailor like that saying 'I'm on a fast boat and I shoot guns,'" DelToro said.

Biskupski got the chance to see how the elite units work after she kicked off Navy Week in Salt Lake City. Reading from a proclamation, Biskupski recognized the Navy's contribution to the nation's defense as well as its mission to be prepared, deter aggression and maintain freedom of the seas.

"It's a big deal for these inland communities to be a part of the Navy and to show our support," Biskupski said. "The Navy is keeping our oceans safe, accessible, and ensuring that our commodities are coming and going without interference and also making sure that our country is safe."

The proclamation recognizing Navy Week in Salt Lake City is done every other year as part of an effort by the Navy to bring its leaders and sailors to cities that may not have a strong Navy community and to share career information.

"It's an important piece of ensuring that those in our community who are interested in providing service to this country, that they realize the Navy is an option to them," Biskupski said.

The Nimitz virtual reality experience will be at the Utah State Fair through Sunday.