Faces of Technology: Preparing the Nation’s Protectors

Sara Moola will never forget 2003. At a conference in Tampa, the geospatial information systems expert crossed paths with Mike Vaughn, a veteran and contractor with more than 20 years of experience in military special operations. Their shared passion to make a difference would become the foundation for a successful business partnership and, two years later, a successful marriage.   

“We started the company because of a vision and a passion for this,” said Moola, CEO of Visual Awareness Technologies and Consulting Inc. (VATC).  

VATC provides cutting-edge tools for simulation and training, intelligence, research and human performance.  Its patented technology platform allows multiple military forces from land, air and sea to collaborate on the same training exercise.  One of its latest developments, Digital Media Replicator, integrates simulated data from news, blogs and social media to replicate the real-time data soldiers review and respond to on deployment.  VATC’s unique platform also enables mission planners to determine the allocation of resources for a simulation.  Their decisions are measured during the training exercise and evaluated post-training.   

“We’ve been researching, developing and testing this for quite a few years, but not until recently had we developed a testable solution that’s now productized and will be coming out at I/ITSEC in Orlando,” Moola said, referring to the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference, the world’s largest modeling, simulation and training conference hosted annually in Orlando. 

Geospatial data, one of the foundational elements of VATC’s technology, is driven by Moola’s expertise.  She was first introduced to a GIS laboratory while working for an environmental management firm. The technology inspired her to complete a master’s degree in GIS at Clark University and, later, she transitioned into GIS roles for military intelligence.   

Moola oversees more than 150 employees at VATC’s 36 locations worldwide, including its headquarters in Tampa, which were established to serve the local military presence at MacDill Air Force Base and to facilitate collaboration with research partners in Orlando. The region’s capacity for research and development is a primary reason Moola believes defense partners should look to Florida for innovation. 

“The technology corridor is so powerful in two areas:  Orlando, which is our military research arm, and Tampa, which has Special Operations Command and Central Command,” Moola explained.   

She and Vaughn are committed to serving the region’s large defense community. Ninety percent of VATC’s employees are veterans and the couple has established a charitable leadership program for children of fallen Special Operations Forces. 

“The long game is important to us and the difference we make in the operational environment is important to us,” said Moola. “I enjoy seeing the commitment of our employees to our customers and knowing we’re making a difference.”

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