ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The Army is ramping up the fielding of improved mission-command hardware and software that provide increased situational awareness, chat capability and less complex user interfaces for Soldiers in combat vehicles.
Recognizing high demand for the systems and significant impact on operations, Army Forces Command requested an accelerated pace to reach all Active, Reserve and National Guard units with completion no later than 2024, two years ahead of the initial timeline.
By 2024, units will be synchronized with the same upgraded software called Joint Battle Command-Platform, and the Army’s new standardized tactical computer, known as the Mounted Family of Computing System. The combined capabilities of JBC-P and MFoCS deliver the Army’s next-generation friendly force tracking system.
“The most recent developments in the system — ease of use and high reliability — are aimed at enhancing the qualities that JBC-P and MFoCS are known for throughout the Army,” said Lt. Col. Shane Sims, product manager for JBC-P, assigned to Project Mission Command. “The Army needs newer and more robust hardware to support future software upgrades. Getting this to Soldiers faster will pave the modernization path for the Army’s Mounted Computing Environment.”
IMPETUS FOR FASTER FIELDING
There are currently three variants of mounted computing capabilities throughout the Army. The Army first fielded JBC-P in May 2015, which is an upgrade to the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below/Blue Force Tracking system, known as FBCB2/BFT, and Joint Capabilities Release, or JCR. The two latter systems are 15 years old and 10 years old, respectively.
The Army planned to save money by fielding legacy hardware, known as JV-5, to 60 percent of units, and the newer system, MFoCS, would have gone to the remaining units. However, to better support Soldiers, the Army decided to eliminate the use of old hardware entirely. Several factors are driving these decisions: the reduction of software and hardware baselines, improved cyber protection from recent technological advancements, and cost avoidance by eliminating sustainment of older systems.
MFoCS ranges in options from a detachable tablet to a full vehicle-mounted workstation. It can also run additional software inside the vehicles, which reduces size, weight and power demand.
“From an operational perspective, these upgrades are designed to enhance Soldiers’ capabilities for planning and executing their missions,” Sims said. “MFoCS provides these improvements and eliminates the need to operate multiple computers in the same vehicle. “We’re working across Army program offices with the goal of fielding a single tactical computer that is scalable and tailorable to the mission and vehicle.”
The Army’s move to an MFoCS-only fleet will serve as the hardware infrastructure for the MCE, which will provide a common set of applications and services as one of six computing environments that make up the Army’s Common Operating Environment.
Factoring in Soldiers’ training time is also a significant consideration during a large fielding initiative. To help the Army accomplish this expedited timeline, the Army Training and Doctrine Command and PdM JBC-P combined efforts and condensed new equipment training time for Soldiers from 40 hours to 16 hours.
“This is a significant benefit for the Army Reserve and National Guard units that can now complete training over a weekend instead of being called up for an entire week,” Sims said.
FIELDING, TRAINING PLAN
JBC-P is part of the Department of the Army G3/5/7’s Unit Set Fielding construct, which works as a unit’s one-stop shop for the management, planning and implementation of fielding and reset. The
G3/5/7 will set JBC-P prioritization based on units’ anticipated deployments, exercises and training events, said Ed Lauer, JBC-P platform fielding team lead. Under USF, a unit is defined as a brigade, including its subordinate battalions and companies.
To cut two years from the original plan, PM Mission Command is increasing the size of its training and fielding teams, which are based at Fort Hood, Texas. It is also ramping up procurement of the vehicle hardware and software platforms.
Currently, JBC-P is fielded to 17 units, with 18 additional units slated for fiscal year 2018. The significant build-up will begin in fiscal year 2019, with 50 to 70 units per year to be fielded and trained under the accelerated plan, versus the previous schedule of 30 to 50 units. About 98,000 MFoCS platforms will be in place by 2024.
“Our fielding coordination teams do a lot of work at Fort Hood before we hit the ground. We’re doing hundreds of installations and Soldier trainings for each unit,” Lauer said. “We have to make sure the vehicles are in good, working condition and the proper Soldiers are available and ready to be trained.”
Col. Troy Crosby, project manager for Mission Command, said the decision to accelerate the fielding pace is critical to improve Soldier experience by enabling them to better plan, monitor and execute missions.
“We’re providing a critical capability for Soldiers as the Army retains its technological edge ahead of potential adversaries,” Crosby said.
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical develops, acquires, fields and supports the Army’s mission command network to ensure force readiness. This critical Army modernization priority delivers tactical communications so commanders and Soldiers can stay connected and informed at all times, even in the most austere and hostile environments. PEO C3T is delivering the network to regions around the globe, enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to a user base that includes the Army’s joint, coalition and other mission partners.
FORT MEADE, Md. — The Army reached a number of milestones over the past two years as it continued service-wide integration of female Soldiers into combat career fields and other areas of service.
This summer, women made history at Fort Benning, Georgia, graduating as the first female cavalry scouts and M1 tank crew members. Earlier this month at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy named the first African-American woman as First Captain of Cadets.
As part of Soldier 2020, the recent integration efforts are led by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, overseeing an Army-wide program to better match Soldiers with career fields that align with their abilities.
The integration of women into armor and infantry began last year with officers leading the way so that female leaders would be in place at units when the first female enlisted arrived.
The Armor Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, has graduated 32 female Soldiers and one female Marine from its three-phase program. Also at Fort Benning, 21 female infantry officers graduated this year.
In addition, Fort Benning graduated 38 female enlisted Soldiers in its first gender-integrated Infantry One Station Unit Training, or OSUT phases.
Eight enlisted women have graduated so far as 19B cavalry scouts at Fort Benning while 10 women completed M1 armor crewman training.
At the Army’s prestigious Ranger School, seven female graduates made the cut since April 2016.
In all, the Army opened 138,000 combat positions to women in 2016.
To date, 567 female Soldiers have graduated from Fort Sill in artillery occupational specialties since the field was opened to women. A total of 601 women have become combat engineers after graduating from training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri since 2015.
The Army’s changing demographics in combat career fields has seen its impact among Soldiers, said Capt. Nargis Kabiri, one of the service’s first female field artillery commanders. Captain Kabiri was commissioned in 2010.
“What I’ve seen from 2010 to now is a change in culture,” Kabiri said. “Back then, I’d walk into a unit and people were hesitant to say anything because there was a female present. Now that culture has changed, when females walk into a room, everything remains the same because it’s become the norm.”
West Point Cadet Simone Askew became the first black woman to earn the title of First Captain or cadet brigade commander at the U.S. Military Academy. The 20-year-old history major was sworn in Aug. 14. Women were not allowed to attend West Point until 1976 and the academy graduated its first class with women in 1980.
“I can’t believe this has happened in my lifetime,” said Pat Locke, an African-American woman who graduated in the first class of female cadets. “When I entered the academy in 1976, the men did not want us there. Now 40 years later, everybody recognizes the talent and skills women bring to the game.”
(Editor’s note: Michelle Eberhart at West Point and Pfc. Zoe Garbarino at Fort Stewart, Georgia, contributed to this report.)
Follow Joe Lacdan on Twitter @LacdanARNEWS
Pictured above: 5th Squadron, 15th Cavalry Regiment’s Bravo Troop Class 17-007 graduates at Freedom Hall June 22, 2017 at Fort Benning. Lt. Col. Daniel C. Enslen, 5-15 commander gave remarks. (Photo by Patrick A. Albright / MCoE PAO Photographer)
Fort Huachuca, Arizona — The Army is constantly looking for ways to help Soldiers become more resilient; physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence (USAICoE), they have expanded the mental resiliency aspect by training Soldiers how to enhance their cognitive skill sets.
In 2014, USAICoE initiated its Cognitive Enhancement Performance Program (CEPP) modeled after the one Special Operations Cognitive Enhancement and Performance (SOCEP) developed for the Special Warfare Education Group at Fort Bragg, NC. Its mission is to use a blend of sports psychology, cognitive awareness training and, self-regulation practices to maximize the potential of every Soldier attending courses at USAICoE.
The CEPP focuses on skills such as energy management, attention to detail, focus control, and stress regulation. Utilizing performance psychologists, students are educated on specific cognitive skills needed for their specific military occupational specialty. With entry level Soldiers, the focus is effective learning in the classroom. With Professional Military Education students, the focus quickly shifts to leadership enhancement where students are encouraged to consider how they will use the cognitive skills they are learning when they return to their formations. Students then are coached individually as they practice those cognitive skills in a classroom and field environment.
In a recent Army Physical Readiness Training (PRT) session, a series of CEPP tasks were integrated into the exercise rotations the Soldiers were completing in as a team. Between wind sprints, ammo can carries, water jug carries and litter carries up and down the hills of Fort Huachuca, were a series of cognitive tasks involving problem solving, spatial memory route recall, auditory memory, and N-back working memory.
The visual change detection task involved team members memorizing a picture prior to performing an exercise and then recalling the specific details of the original picture when looking at an altered picture after the exercise. The objective is to train their brains to pick out imperative pieces of the information, to recognize patterns, and then solve problems using various reasoning strategies.
Auditory memory is the ability to take in information that is presented orally, process it, retain it in one’s mind, and then recall it. For this task team members were given a list of “Surveillance Codes”, words intelligence professionals use to conceal the true name of an object, prior to an exercise event. At the end of the exercise event team members were asked to transcribe the true meaning of a message using the surveillance codes.
The spatial memory route recall task required team members to look at the floorplan of a building before and after their exercise event and remember the route taken through the building and the intelligence information that was found in each room of the building along the route. The exercise is designed to engage their short term working memory, highlight the importance of the most relevant cues, and show them how effectively they can recall key pieces of information after encountering physical and cognitive demands.
The N-back exercise was one of the more difficult tasks performed during the training. It involved a series of photographs displayed for a set of time followed by specific questions about what was shown in the photographs. This exercise strains the “The serial position effect” which states that there is a tendency to recall the first and last items in a series best, and the middle items the worst.
For the students who participated in the training, this type of PRT proved both physically and mentally stimulating and was a clear departure from the mind-numbing ritual physical fitness training most had endured in the past. Looking forward, USAICoE plans to conduct a longitudinal study of impact of the cognitive skills training and its usefulness to the Soldier after they leave the intelligence center.
During his visit, McCarthy received a briefing on the scope and scale of TRADOC’s mission, including Army growth requirements and future battle capabilities.
“The Army must always be manned, trained, equipped and ready to fight,” said McCarthy. “Readiness is essential to protect our nation and secure our vital interests against determined and capable enemies.”
As an Army veteran, McCarthy said he is focused on the Army’s modernization efforts to prepare today’s Soldiers for tomorrow’s fight.
“Our foremost responsibility is to deliver ready, trained and equipped forces that meet the operational demands put before us,” he said. “The Army must have a consistent approach to modernization that promotes future readiness.”
McCarthy saw first-hand how such modernization is already being implemented at Fort Eustis. TRADOC’s Operational Environmental Training Support Center creates virtual battlespaces of tomorrow to provide Soldiers with as realistic of a training environment as possible.
“Investments [like this] can rapidly develop our capabilities,” he said. “Making the hard choices will ensure we can shape, fight and win decisively across all domains on today’s complex battlefields.”
Pictured above: Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy stands for a photo with Gen. David Perkins, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, during McCarthy’s visit to TRADOC headquarters Aug. 10, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Shama Crumes)
WASHINGTON — When Lt. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland left Afghanistan in 2013, he said he remembers troops there had an expectation that medevac helicopters would evacuate the wounded within the so-called “golden hour” — a time period identified by medical professionals as the hour after an injury during which prompt treatment by doctors can often mean the difference between life and death.
In the next fight, particularly against a near-peer adversary, MacFarland said, there likely won’t be a golden hour. Instead, it may take much longer to get medevac missions underway, particularly during the early entry phase against an entrenched enemy, known as an anti-access, area denial operation, or A2AD.
MacFarland, who serves now as the deputy commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, spoke July 24 during a medical symposium hosted by the Association of the United States Army in San Antonio, Texas.
Because Apache attack helicopters will be needed for the fight, they likely won’t be available to serve as escorts for HH-60M Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopters, MacFarland explained. And the air superiority the U.S. has enjoyed for so long may also no longer be a guarantee in future warfare scenarios.
Additionally, telemedicine links between medics and doctors might not work because enemy cyberattacks could disrupt those communications, he said. Even if medevac flights are possible, there is no guarantee that medical centers will still be available, especially since in recent years adversaries have targeted hospitals.
During A2AD, the best way to save lives would be to defeat the enemy first with all means necessary, he said.
SOLUTIONS TO URGENT CARE
If immediate medical care by doctors is not available, medics and even non-medic Soldiers will “need every tool to provide medical care at the point of injury,” MacFarland said. The U.S. military is already working on a number of solutions when medevac is not an option.
The Marine Corps is experimenting with unmanned aerial systems that could drop needed medical supplies, he said. The Army is interested in this new technology as well.
Training ordinary Soldiers for duties normally performed by medics may be the best immediate option, MacFarland noted. Training kits known as Tactical Combat Casualty Care, or TC3, are already being sent out to select brigade combat teams, he said.
TC3 kits contain mannequins that mimic human breathing, bleeding, pulses and traumatic amputations. With the kits, three medics can train up to a 30-man platoon of Soldiers on common medical tasks such as clearing airways, controlling hemorrhages, and identifying and rendering aid to chest decompressions.
Another approach is that combat support hospitals may need to reorganize into smaller, more dispersed modular units so they become less of a target, he said.
Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, deputy commander of XVIII Airborne Corps, said Soldiers need to be toughened in a physical, mental and spiritual sense before they go to the fight. He added that the hardening goes beyond what’s often referred to as “resilience.” Instead, “warrior-athletes” is a term that is more fitting.
While combat training center rotations are generally good for training, LaCamera said he believes that a better way to train medical personnel is to send them to actual trauma surgery centers, like the ones in Honduras.
As for medics and Soldiers who are not in medicine, he said it might prove useful to send them out with paramedics. A number of years ago, Soldiers went with paramedics in New York City, where they witnessed injuries from gunshot wounds.
LaCamera said it’s difficult to simulate the real trauma of war, and the closest one can come to the intensity of conflict is being around people who deal with trauma on a recurring basis.
Finally, one of the most important things the Army can do is to brace Soldiers for the coming fight, MacFarland said. Soldiers must know that they “must care for each other” as the first line of aid for one another before medical help arrives.