United States Army Training and Doctrine Command and Arizona State University will host a two-day conference at the Tempe Mission Palms Conference Center April 21-22 to examine the effects of technology on future security challenges.
During the initial stages of conflict in Afghanistan in 2002 as U.S. Soldiers were clearing caves used by foreign and insurgent forces, the Army found itself in dire need of materiel technology to help thwart IEDs and victim-borne explosive devices. Soldiers were using unsophisticated technologies to search caves and bunkers rigged with booby traps and grenades, resulting in multiple casualties. Urgent solutions were needed to keep Soldiers in the fight. A task force was formed, and the PackBot tactical robot soon followed, giving Soldiers visual confirmation of obstacles on the frontlines.
The successful project led to the establishment of the U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force, which would quickly procure and deliver nonstandard, specific solutions with a goal of 180 days or less to ease the urgent challenges that Soldiers were facing.
NCOs have a key role
Having direct access to Soldiers is critical to the REF so it can maintain a quick turnaround, which at 180 days is a faster timeline than the ones traditional acquisition systems and organizations face. Whether reaching out to Soldiers in an expeditionary lab in the field or gathering feedback from deploying or returning units, outreach programs are essential to the mission. The REF, which is headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, canvasses the commercial and government realm of technology to mitigate capability gaps. Noncommissioned officers are vital to its process.
“An NCO brings knowledge and experience with him to individuals who have not had that type of experience before,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Wayne Dessecker, an operational advisor for the outreach team. “A majority of the acquisition career field is fielded by officers at field-grade level. They have either not been in the fight for several years or have never been in combat arms MOS’s. NCOs bring that firsthand knowledge and experience, so we can give them appropriate feedback and collaborate with them to find the best piece of equipment to fill those capability gaps.”
The REF draws on NCOs’ skills heavily because combat experience comes in handy when collaborating on technology.
“For any NCO to come work at the REF, he or she must have been a combat leader, which means you must have done time as a platoon sergeant and you must have met your minimum requirements for the next position,” Dessecker said. “Most of us have two or three years of combat experience as platoon sergeants, not to mention that we did our staff sergeant time in combat arms positions. So we bring all of the information from the squad level to the platoon level to the company level.”
“As an infantry NCO, being at the REF is a significant change from what NCOs are used to,” said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Fulk, an outreach and assessments team member. “This assignment requires tact, cohesion and a level of collaboration with civilian peers, vendors, high-level leadership and academia, which the typical infantryman would normally never have to worry about. That being said, it’s an excellent broadening opportunity, which requires a lot of on-the-job learning, and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity.”
The NCOs may be of lesser rank than the officers they work with, but they are considered peers because of their technical and tactical experience, Dessecker said.
“When we say something on a strategic or tactical level that is necessary to consider [for project development], everybody in the room listens to us,” Dessecker said. “Additionally we have the flexibility to perform just about any mission because of the way that we were brought up in the Army.”
NCOs who are part of the REF are afforded the opportunity to form productive working relationships with academia, other Army organizations and civilians, Fulk said.
“It’s rewarding because infantry NCOs rarely get the opportunity … to develop a prototype piece of equipment and become a part of the solution,” Fulk said. “It’s amazing how quickly an NCO who works side-by-side with an engineer can create a solution that works from both an engineering and a Soldier perspective. Most Soldiers do not have the background to create a complete product from scratch, and most engineers do not have the background to create a Soldier-proof product that will work in the environments faced today. Together, though, we can create finished prototypes and help mitigate a capability gap.”
“Working with scientists and engineers was a challenge at first, because we had to learn from one another,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Pessink, the REF forward team’s NCO in charge. “The NCO helps them understand how the military functions. Most NCOs who come into the organization have never worked in an environment with scientists or engineers, or really, any civilians. They provide us with a plethora of knowledge to take back with us when we, the NCOs, have to transition back into a regular Army unit and lead troops.”
In the effort to give Soldiers quick access to technologies while out in the field, the REF deploys expeditionary labs, or Ex Labs, to connect Soldiers with scientists and engineers from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. Ex Labs are containerized engineering hubs designed to be transported to the most remote of bases. They deploy with an NCO, who is ready to meet with Soldiers and clarify equipment issues to the on-site engineers. Ex Labs come equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, such as 3D printers, computer numerical control machines and fabrication tools.
“We help identify the tactical problems and even provide immediate solutions in some locations, using the Ex Labs,” Pessink said. “The NCO can give Soldiers who are deployed equipment and tactical knowledge that will help their organizations be successful on any battlefield. I always feel like I’m making a difference in the development of a REF solution, assessment or event.”
“A Soldier will come in and tell us about a problem with equipment,” Dessecker said of the Ex Lab process. “The NCO can translate that information to the engineer to get the right piece of equipment built or created so that that Soldier’s capability gap will be filled.”
Ready to assist
Though the REF’s NCOs easily can find themselves juggling 20 to 30 projects, the organization wants to get the word out to units and Soldiers that they are ready to handle urgent equipment challenges that may crop up.
“A lot of Soldiers don’t know we exist, and down at the Soldier squad level that can be a big problem for us,” Dessecker said. “Part of our outreach program is to engage with units before they deploy, so that every Soldier knows what’s going on. But in theater, one of the things I like to do is go to lunch and dinner at different dining facilities and pick a table full of Soldiers and tell them what kind of capability I bring so they can engage me. Within a few days, those Soldiers I talked to will tell their buddies or their platoon sergeants [about us] or they, themselves, come in [to tell us about a problem they were having]. Every Soldier has a problem [with equipment]. They just don’t know how to fix it. We are an avenue to help fix those problems.”
The document that kicks off the production process is the submission of a REF 10-liner. The simple document gathers information about the capability gap and operational intent for the equipment solution.
“Any Soldier can write one of these,” Dessecker said. “Basically all Soldiers have to do is tell us who they are, what the tactical problem is, what concept of your operation is this tactical problem representative of, what you see as system characteristics that will define the problem or define the piece of equipment that will help you solve that problem.”
The Army deputy chief of staff gave the REF director the authority to validate requirements in order to ensure that these quick-reaction solutions get top priority to meet Soldiers’ and units’ needs. Once the 10-liner is submitted and validated, the REF begins canvassing industry- and government off-the-shelf technologies and working with partners to determine potential solutions. Ex Lab projects are often first developed to get a working plastic version of the prototype. A 3D printer is used because it’s cheaper to work with plastic and also to check the form, fit and function of the solution, Dessecker said.
The REF’s intent is to address urgent requirements for specific units and create a general solution the entire Army can use. It’s a challenge that the REF’s NCOs embrace.
“I want NCOs who can come in here with 12 to 14 years of experience in the Army, who have platoon sergeant time,” Dessecker said. “They can come in here, influence the piece of equipment that they will use as future platoon sergeants, first sergeants and battalion sergeants major. We want to be able to use their tactical experience here for a little while, get them in the acquisition process, to understand the different realms that are in the Army and then go back to the tactical side of the fight and bring the information forward. It will make them better leaders and middle managers in the Army in the future.
“Prior REF NCOs are our most valuable communication assets because they go back to the Army with the knowledge from here,” he said. “Our former NCOs … can identify the problems now. [Experience with the REF] brings a new perspective. You now have an outlet to request something to fix the problem instead of having to deal with it with what little resources you have.”
The REF’s NCOs play an integral part in influencing the Army’s technology of the future.
“If you [as an NCO] do well in your job, you’re smart and you’re able to be flexible and adjust your environment, you will move from working with Soldiers to getting them the piece of equipment that will keep them going in the fight,” Dessecker said. “If you’re an NCO and you want to directly affect the pieces of equipment that Soldiers are using instead of complaining about what Soldiers get, then this is the type of place you need to come to. We have direct influence on what new and emerging technologies Soldiers will get in the future.”
The NCOs recognize the value of the skills they have acquired working for the REF, expertise that will keep them relevant in the evolving Army.
“The NCO provides knowledge that helps get the warfighters the best equipment to fill their capability gaps,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jose Laboy-Correa, a logistics team member. “In the logistics division, we draw on our deployments and assignments at other unique organizations to ensure that REF solutions make it to the warfighter. NCOs make a difference because they have an understanding of the needs of Soldiers deployed all over the world. All NCOs are able to influence the types of solutions that are equipped to units in theater.”
“I will have a huge sense of accomplishment [when I leave], Fulk said. “I feel I am able to make a big impact on Soldiers and the Army through the work accomplished at the REF.”
Photo credit: Sgt. 1st Class Justin Rotti, a combat developer for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Fire Cell, tests a developmental handheld precision targeting device for the Rapid Equipping Force in July 2014 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The device allows Soldiers to engage targets with precision munitions and provide digital connectivity to related units. (Photo by John Hamilton / White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs)
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — The Army must make training more like combat to prepare units and leaders for the complexities of future conflicts, a recent white paper stated.
In the white paper’s foreword, Brown said training needs to reflect the intensity of combat that Soldiers saw in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Legacy training methodologies and capabilities do not replicate the complexities or challenges they encountered during a decade of conflict,” he said. “Our Soldiers and leaders realize the environment they will encounter in future combat is growing in complexity and unknowns, and they are demanding realism in training.”
The white paper recommends the Combined Arms Center – Training establish an Enhanced Realistic Training Work Group to conduct an accelerated Capabilities Based Assessment to identify the critical gaps and potential solutions for current and long-term capabilities development efforts.
Here is the white paper’s definition of realistic training:
Realistic training is the deliberate practice of individual and collective tasks to enable tactical and technical proficiency that support mission accomplishment in a training environment that approximates the operational environment in both sufficient complexity and substance.
The operational environment is constantly changing, requiring the Army to prepare units to counter innovative threats. These threats can include regular and irregular forces as well as criminals and terrorists, or even a hybrid threat that includes all of those groups.
Enhanced realistic training capabilities will provide a training environment that represents many of the conditions expected on future battlefields based on observed operational environment trends, the white paper stated.
To prepare units, training events must:
• Add multiple challenges for Soldiers, leaders, and units to consider and overcome.
• Represent the physical and cognitive stresses of combat and its moral and ethical challenges.
• Incorporate the human, social-cultural, and political aspects of conflict, replicate joint and combined arms effects, and the capabilities and limitations of Army ground forces and Unified Action Partners.
The white paper supports the Army Operating Concept, or AOC, and the Human Dimension Strategy. The AOC states that training must be more realistic and challenging. The 2015 Human Dimension Strategy lists realistic training as one of three lines of effort to develop cohesive teams of professionals who can thrive in ambiguous, complex and challenging situations.
The white paper can also be found here.
Photo credit: Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division practice conducting an assault during a training event at Fort Hood, Texas. A recent white paper says the Army needs tough, realistic training to prepare Soldiers for future missions. (U.S. Army photo by Mike Casey)
My name is CSM Andy Connette, and I am the CSM for the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command. I am grateful for the opportunity that CSM Davenport gave me to share with you just a little about ATEC.
ATEC plans, integrates and conducts experiments, developmental testing, independent operational testing, and independent evaluations and assessments to provide essential information to acquisition decision makers and commanders.
We test everything from mud to space, from rifles to National Missile Defense, and from Nett Warrior to Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV. We have a team of about 8,000 Soldiers, civilians and contractors who conduct testing every day across the country, as well as Europe and Panama.
We take the requirements, often generated by TRADOC, and design tests that will create the conditions to evaluate gear and equipment provided by industry against those requirements, providing constant feedback to project managers through developmental testing.
When the system is ready for operational testing, we provide unbiased test results to the Army’s acquisition decision makers. You may have heard recently about Oshkosh being awarded the contract for the future JLTV. ATEC conducted testing that allowed decision makers to select that vendor. Now that single vendor will go through extensive testing through all kinds of environments and conditions. It will get rode hard, shot at, blown up, broken, and repaired before it gets in the hands of a test unit and before a full-rate production decision gets made.
No matter what we are testing, we are working to answer three questions: Is it effective – does it do what is needed? Is it suitable – can Soldiers operate and train with the system and use it in battle? And is it survivable against known threats, including cyber, that it’s meant to defeat or deter – can it perform against the physical and cyber threats?
We have test centers located at White Sands, New Mexico; Dugway, Utah; Fort Huachuca and Yuma, Arizona; Redstone, Alabama and Aberdeen, Maryland,which includes Fort Greely, Arkansas, and our tropic regions testing in Panama. Our U.S. Army Operational Test Command is located at Fort Hood, Texas, and our U.S. Army Evaluation Center is located at Aberdeen along with the ATEC headquarters. We also conduct testing at unit locations on installations across the globe.
While we do conduct testing on future systems, we are also continuously testing current programs of record; e.g., Abrams, Bradley, Stryker, Patriot, Paladin, etc. So every time there has been a new track pad designed or a software upgrade initiated, that system has been going through testing. I laughingly say there has been an M-1 tank doing laps out at Yuma for the last 40 years. The reality is, that is not far from the truth.
Here are a few systems of interest out of the hundreds currently in some phase of testing:
For the aviators and special operators, we are conducting Silent Knight Radar, or SKR testing near Albuquerque, New Mexico, on the MH47G and M60M Spec Ops helicopters. The SKR is a terrain following/terrain avoiding radar that permits low-level flight in various conditions. We have the bulk of the Army’s experimental test pilots in our formation stationed out of Redstone who conduct all of our aviation testing.
For Stryker fans such as myself, we are testing an engineering change proposal on the double vee hull, or DVH Stryker in a cold environment at our Cold Regions Test Center in Alaska. This test is assessing upgrades to the chassis, mechanical power, electrical power and digital backbone.
For the weapons enthusiast, you would be excited to see the M1020 sniper rifle going through test at U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center. This is a modular sniper rifle that has the look and feel of a BMW with the ability to change calibers.
I don’t think a day goes by that Patriot is not going through tests out at White Sands. These tests range from software upgrades to fire control systems to integration as part of the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense.
I’ll close with this: We are always seeking Soldier involvement in tests, particularly in developmental testing. The feedback from Soldiers who will handle the system is incredibly important and proven to save tremendous cost and time in the development of systems. This ultimately helps get systems into Soldiers’ hands quicker.
Although operational tests are predictable, developmental tests are not, and therefore, it’s difficult for units to be responsive to requests for Soldier support. So if you see or hear about an opportunity, the Army could certainly benefit from your participation and feedback. I hope to see some of you out there pulling triggers on the next handgun, the Modular Handgun, coming soon to a test range near you.
For more information on ATEC, visit our website at http://www.atec.army.mil.
“Truth in Testing”
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 11, 2016) — The goal of achieving an expeditionary, uninterrupted mission command network is taking shape but is still “a work in progress,” said Brig. Gen. Willard M. Burleson III.
Burleson, director, Mission Command Center of Excellence, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, spoke Feb. 11 at the Association of the United States Army-sponsored Hot Topics forum on Air and Missile Defense during a panel about “Networked Mission Command.”
PURPOSE OF NETWORK
Before diving into the details of what’s been accomplished with the network thus far, Burleson described the importance of the network to warfighting.
First and foremost, the network enables mission command, he said, meaning that it is the vital command and control technology piece that links leaders and Soldiers with their systems, joint forces and partners. This connectivity enables informed planning and decisions based on situational awareness across the domains of warfare.
Besides being expeditionary, the network must be robust enough to operate uninterrupted, he said, acknowledging that networks, like any systems, will not always be perfect. That’s why it’s important that Soldiers still be able to continue the mission without being “solely dependent on connectivity” in environments where the network is “degraded, intermittent and limited.”
Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., commander, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, and deputy commander, Second Army, then described the Army’s network modernization effort.
To understand where the network is today, Morrison illustrated how far that modernization has come in just a few years.
It wasn’t long ago when Soldiers deploying to Southwest Asia from the U.S. or another theater had to have their computer turned in to get reimaged, he said. That occurred because tactical and strategic networks were “stove-piped,” meaning that each network worked separately from other networks.
“That’s no longer the case,” he said. “We worked aggressively over the last year in regional cyber centers to standardize the basic capabilities provided so units moving around the world could transition from theater to theater. Now, you can deploy to any theater and plug into the network.”
Morrison emphasized, “We’re in the midst of probably the most comprehensive modernization effort for network modernization ever.”
A lot of that effort, he said, is going into standing up Joint Regional Security Stacks, or JRSS, to ensure that the network communicates securely and efficiently across the joint force, he said. JRSS features common architecture, meaning software, tactics, techniques and procedures.
Four JRSSs were stood up recently in the United States and are now operational, he said. By the end of this calendar year, two more will be stood up in Europe and two in Southwest Asia. He said the effort to stand up JRSS is being done across the services, in cooperation with the Defense Information Systems Agency.
A challenge, Morrison said, is getting coalition partners to share the network. The technology is in place to do that, but the policy hasn’t caught up. “This needs to be formalized quickly.”
Morrison said network modernization is also taking place on installations across the Army. Over the last 18 months, 16 installation network systems have been modernized.
An example of what this modernization looks like, for example, is Fort Hood, Texas, he said. There, operators were routinely running “96 percent of the pipes,” meaning using up 96 percent of the bandwidth to stream videos, pictures, text, whatever.
Now, it’s down to around 10 percent,” he said. This reduction in bandwidth “allows us to collapse the networks and provide capacity for everyone on a single, secure, joint infrastructure for first time.”
Another aspect of network modernization, he said, is using Army personnel to engineer and install networks and upgrades, as opposed to relying on contractor support.
Morrison admitted that the Army and joint force have a ways to go to get the network where they want it to be.
“Over the past year we supported over seven named operations and in not one instance did the unit take their full network capabilities with them,” he said. “Almost every instance was distributed, where a [network] portion remained back at home station and had to be connected to a footprint that was much smaller forward.
“Yet, the commander wanted the same capabilities as if he had his full staff there,” he continued.
Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Sheriff, deputy commander, 263rd U.S. Army Air and Missile Defense Command, said the hardest piece of network modernization has to do with his own area of air and missile defense, the “human dimension.”
The human dimension is a term encompassing a wide range of human involvement in the process, from getting the tactical and technical exposure at the schoolhouses to developing leaders and Soldiers to accept this new technology and employ it to its full capacity, he said.
Talent management also falls into the human dimension realm, he said. That means the right Soldiers need to be placed in the right jobs based on their skills and potential to learn.
Burleson added that in the human dimension, “leaders must be able to thrive in situations of ambiguity and chaos where connectivity to the network may be limited or nonexistent. A lot of that can be learned through leader development.”
He added that the Army has done a lot of great work thus far, but there’s still a lot left to do.
Photo credit: A Soldier at Fort Bliss participates in a network integration exercise in 2015. (U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Jan. 14, 2016) — In a rapidly changing global security environment, coupled with declining military budgets, the Army needs top-notch aviators trained by creative and experienced commanders who can wring the most out of what little training budget they have, the Army’s vice chief of staff said.
“The creativity you apply in training your units will develop the next generation of leaders and shape the future of our Army,” Gen. Daniel B. Allyn said. “Training in garrison cannot be viewed as ‘routine.’ It must replicate the complexity of flying in Iraq or Afghanistan and it is incumbent upon those of you who have flown and fought in these demanding environments for more than 14 years to train-up the next generation of pilots.”
Allyn spoke at the start of a day-long series of an aviation-related panel of discussions at the headquarters of the Association of the U.S. Army in Arlington, Virginia, Jan. 14.
Allyn also laid out requirements for aviation modernization that he said were critical to ensuring Army aviation’s continued prowess on the battlefield. Among those were increased manned-unmanned teaming, an accurate definition of future vertical-lift requirements, improvements to the power and agility of the current fleet, development of “lethality that pairs precision and discrimination for engagements in complex terrain,” and enhancements to survivability through improvements in ability to both detect and defeat new enemy capabilities.
“This is not a wish-list,” the general said. “These are must-haves to deliver an aviation force capable of dominating future battlefields.”
Maj. Gen. Michael D. Lundy, commanding general of Fort Rucker, Alabama, and the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, laid out the latest details regarding progress with the Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative. The aim of that initiative is to allow the aviation branch to continue to provide to the Army and the nation the same asymmetric advantage it has had for the last 14 years.
Lundy said the Army has almost entirely divested all of its aging OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aircraft. There are only two squadrons left.
“We will finish divestiture here during FY16, minus the 1-17 [Cavalry Regiment (AIR)], which will roll-up and be the last squadron that will operate in [South] Korea. They will do their last deployment,” he said.
Also on track is divestiture of training aircraft on Fort Rucker, including the TH-67 Creek and the OH-58 Kiowa. This week for the first time, he said, courses are already underway training new pilots with the new UH-72 Light Utility Helicopter.
Divestiture of UH-60A Black Hawks is behind, however, the general said. “That’s an issue.” Those Black Hawks, moving out of the National Guard, will be replaced with more modern UH-60Ls, and those will eventually be converted to the UH-60V variant, which features a glass cockpit.
With programs underway now, the Army is looking to improve an aviator’s ability to see in degraded visual environments, to field an improved air-to-ground missile with the Joint Air to Ground Missile, to provide improved engines in the Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache aircraft through its Improved Turbine Engine Program, and to enhance aircraft survivability.
Those programs, and others Lundy called “disruptive technology,” are on track and moving forward, despite earlier concerns.
“A lot of these programs were at risk, or they were just good ideas,” Lundy said. “I will tell you that they are all in very good shape right now. And even though they will come slower than we want because of budgetary concerns, all the programs are safe; they are on track; they are in our long-range plans, and they have got great support across the Army staff.”
MORE FLYING HOURS
A chief concern for Lundy, he said, is the limited number of hours Army aviators are getting in the cockpit.
“This is an area where I have great concern right now,” he said. “Our flying hour program is not what it needs to be.”
The general said the Army is taking a “holistic look” at aviation flying hours to find ways to alleviate the problem of aviators flying fewer hours than what is needed to maintain proficiency.
Lundy also said that every Army operation globally involves an aviation component, and that the operations tempo for aviators is “higher than what we saw, even during the surge, if you look at a mission tempo perspective. We are expecting Army aviation to be out there, to be able to do that. We need to be training at a much higher level to maintain our proficiency, especially as we think about decisive action and combined arms operations.”
An in-the-works solution for dealing with the increased operations tempo, Lundy said, is to finally fill the cockpits of equipment in the 11th CAB with Soldiers. That unit has the gear it needs already, but it now needs personnel. That, he said, is a priority for Army aviation.
The “No. 1 priority is to man that CAB,” Lundy said. “If we do that, it will help us mitigate some of the op tempo issues.”
Right now, he said, “demand signal is outpacing our capability to support all of it. We are having to make hard choices.”
Photo credit: In a file photo, three OH-58D Kiowa Warriors prepare to leave Fort Rucker, Ala., for the last time at Hanchey Army Airfield, Nov. 18, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Nathan Pfau)