U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command foreign liaison officers participated in a professional development session by visiting Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and Fort Bliss, Texas, from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3. During their visit to Fort Huachuca, the foreign liaison officers learned about the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and the 311th Military Intelligence Brigade’s roles and mission. At Fort Bliss, the officers were hosted by 1st Armored Division, U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy and Joint Modernization Command. (U.S. Army photo)
Posts Tagged ‘Fort Bliss’
FORT BLISS, Texas (August 16, 2017) — The U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), referred to as the “Strike” Brigade, successfully used its on-the-move tactical network transport equipment to exchange critical battlefield information during its advise-and-assist mission with Iraqi security forces in the fight to defeat ISIS.
Lessons learned from the deployment emphasized the need for more expeditionary network communications equipment such as inflatable satellite antennas that can be deployed at the tactical edge of operations and as a sling loadable version of the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Tactical Communications Node (TCN), which the Army recently put through its operational test.
The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) provides expeditionary air assault capability to conduct forcible entry and other worldwide unified land operations in support of combatant commanders. During its most recent deployment, Task Force Strike Soldiers helped reorganize, instruct, and facilitate communication between Iraqi Security Forces to lead offensive operations. Since this was a joint and collation fight and the unit was continually on-the-move, it needed robust network capability that could meet its high maneuverability requirements. The unit’s combat vehicles integrated with Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 (WIN-T Inc 2) network transport equipment provided robust network communications, mission command and situational awareness both on-the-move crossing austere battlefield locations and at-the-halt in stationary command posts.
“When Col. Bret Sylvia was the brigade commander in Iraq pushing up towards Mosul, we had smaller elements of Strike Soldiers advising Iraqis far forward in some really remote locations,” said Col. Joseph E. Escandon, who assumed command of 2/101 Airborne Division (Air Assault) from Sylvia in June, after Task Force Strike returned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team replaced the 2/101 Airborne Division in Iraq.
“When you think about the capability they were able to have on M-ATVs [MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle] with WIN-T Inc 2 Points of Presence (PoPs) and Soldier Network Extensions (SNEs), it was huge,” Escandon said. “They were not just making an FM radio call or [radio] TACSAT [Tactical Satellite] call back from their headquarters…now they can send a more holistic common operating picture.”
The WIN-T Inc 2 PoP enables mission command on-the-move, and the SNE provides on-the-move network communication and network extension capabilities. These and other WIN-T Inc 2 configurations helped the Strike Brigade relay critical situational awareness between forward ground forces, higher headquarters and coalition forces.
“A number of the units would go out for hours, maybe days, in small teams and establish a company [sized] command post, and the SNE would serve as their redundant means of additional capability,” said Maj. Edward Timmons, 2/101 Airborne Division (Air Assault) S6 (signal officer), who was deployed with the unit in Iraq. “Some of those company level advise and assist missions didn’t deliberately set up a company CP; they would just set up their own perimeter and a small camp [but still have network connectivity].”
Using both line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight for optimal connectivity, WIN-T Inc 2 network transport equipment delivers a mobile, resilient, redundant tactical communications network. It enabled Task Force Strike Soldiers operating in remote and challenging terrain to maintain voice, video and data communications while on patrol, with connectivity similar to that found in a stationary command post.
“Most of the places we went were forward, and if they were occupied by us before, they no longer held that infrastructure,” Timmons said. “WIN-T Increment 2 served as our main [network] backbone for 80 percent of our organizations; only a few sites were on fiber that still resided in Iraq. The WIN-T network was very solid.”
During the deployment, WIN-T Inc 2 enabled the unit to connect to the U.S. tactical secure/non-secure networks and the coalition network. It was also the transport mechanism that enabled the unit to share its common operating picture and primary, alternate, contingency and emergency (PACE) plan with the rest of the force, Timmons said.
“We tested the equipment before deploying and really maxed out the capabilities as much as we could,” Timmons said. “We tried our best to break them, and they held tough and they held tight.”
With the SNE, the unit can also extend its operational reach well beyond traditional FM line-of-sight radio ranges by using satellite-based capability to retransmit radio signals. Timmons said his unit integrated SNEs into the network to support fires battalions that were far forward.
The SNE improves the speed and reliability of the fires network, extending network range and increasing survivability for artillery units. It reduces end-to-end fires mission timelines, resulting in fewer dropped fires mission and providing a more reliable network.
“We are part of the world’s only air assault division using helicopters to get deep within enemy territory and seize any terrain,” said Maj. Timothy Chess, 2/101 Airborne Division (Air Assault) operations officer. “During the advise-and-assist operation to our Iraqi counterparts, all of the sites were expeditionary and used either WIN-T systems or other expeditionary satellite capability [such as inflatable satellite antennas and other small deployable satellite terminals that complemented the WIN-T equipment]. It worked very well there.”
When 2/101 Airborne Division (Air Assault) returned to the United States in January, it immediately started its new mission as the operational unit for Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 17.2. Following extensive preparations, the Army conducted the evaluation in the rigorous combat training environment of Fort Bliss, Texas, in July.
As part of NIE 17.2, the Army successfully executed the operational test for the Lite (L) versions of the WIN-T Inc 2 TCN, which supports command post and on-the-move operations, and Network Operations and Security Center (NOSC), which supports network operations. Previously, the TCN and NOSC configurations were integrated on five-ton trucks, such as those employed by Task Force Strike in Iraq. To better support expeditionary, quick reaction and air assault mission requirements, the Army integrated these configurations onto HMMWVs, known as Humvees, which can be sling loaded by a helicopter across the battlefield or rolled onto an Air Force C-130 aircraft, providing significantly increased agility and operational flexibility.
“The TCN-Lite equipment would have helped us tremendously getting into some of those austere locations,” Timmons said. “[Once fielded] the TCN-Lite will allow the 101st to do the mission that it was meant to do — air assault, moving quickly, establishing communications — you can’t beat its [operational] flexibility.”
In addition to the reduction in size, weight and power requirements, the Army significantly reduced the complexity of these systems to make it easier for Soldiers to operate and maintain them.
Lt. Col. Keith Carter, 1-26 Battalion Commander for the 2/101 Airborne Division (Air Assault), said that being able to sling-load the TCN-L, versus the heavier legacy TCN the unit had in Iraq, enables him to get his mission command systems into the fight earlier.
“I can bring it forward with an initial [air] assault rather than a couple of days later with my truck-based assault,” he said. “That gives us an increased ability to see the battlefield both adjacently, higher and lower to share a common operating picture and to create a shared visualization amongst the echelons of the command. We have a greater ability to keep up the momentum during operations.”
FORT BLISS, Texas — Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), are getting an opportunity to work with the latest enhancements to the Army’s tactical network technologies during Network Integration Evaluation 17.2, which began here July 11.
As part of the NIE concept, the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command provides a “controlled setting” for program managers and developers of Army network equipment to test and evaluate their gear in a fully operational environment, said Col. Charles Roede, who serves as deputy commander of JMC.
“We create the conditions that introduce the environmental factors, a thinking enemy, the stress and confusion of simulated combat,” he added.
As part of an NIE, Soldiers train at Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range, conducting the same kinds of exercise units conduct elsewhere. Unlike at other installations, however, these Soldiers take gear and equipment that is under evaluation with them into the field to improve the Army’s tactical, as well as command and control networks.
At the end of the exercise, Soldiers who used that gear provide feedback about how it enhanced — or didn’t enhance — their performance during the exercise. That feedback informs Army senior leaders about how the gear worked, and is used to improve mission command capabilities through the development of a deployable and less complex operational network.
NIE also helps improve the testing baseline by incorporating information on a highly expeditionary unit’s ability to operate the Army’s tactical network to accomplish mission objectives.
IMPROVING CONCEPTS, CAPABILITIES
“What we are trying to do at NIE is to focus on the network and mission command,” said Douglas L. Fletcher, who serves as the chief of staff at JMC.
Fletcher said he understands that technology — which he considers to be a piece of hardware or software — can be the catalyst for shaping Army concepts.
“Concepts are the forerunner of doctrine,” he added. “[Doctrine] is how we see ourselves fighting and what capabilities we need to fight. Those capabilities turn into requirements, which eventually get into the hands of Soldiers.
“The best thing you can do is get the technology into the hands of Soldiers early and often during the development of that capability. That way you don’t make something … only to find out later that it does not work the way it was intended to,” he said.
THE MEASURE OF SUCCESS
Before NIE 17.2, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division used to be the dedicated Army experimentation unit, Roede said. Due to the needs of the Army, that unit was pulled back from its testing mission and was put back into the readiness pool to conduct real-world missions. Now, instead of having a permanently-assigned unit with which to conduct NIE, the Army rotates units in to perform the evaluations.
At the conclusion of NIE, some of the equipment that has been evaluated there is integrated back into the evaluating unit and tested in other operational environments. Since being pulled back, the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division continues to operate under a previous capability set and provides feedback to JMC, Roede said.
In September, the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division will participate in their first National Training Center rotation.
“They are arguably the best-trained brigade on the Army’s network,” Roede said. “Can they translate that to be successful at NTC? If they can, it can prove that the network is viable and they can fight better. If that is the case, how do we get rest of the Army to that standard?”
The 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division is slated to participate in next year’s NIE, Roede said.
“This has been a remarkable experience bringing in a rotational unit,” Roede said. “It shows we can bring other brigades into NIE and give them this experience of working with the network to become a better fighting force.”
TACTICAL NETWORK CAPABILITIES
At this most recent NIE, the Army is testing two expeditionary network systems that are part of the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical, or WIN-T, program. The program aims to provide operational units with increased early-entry communications while reducing the complexity of the network.
“[The network] is critical to the commander’s ability to … command their forces and gain a situational understanding of the battlespace,” said Col. Bert Shell, chief of the network integration division at JMC.
“2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne has the latest increment of WIN-T, Increment 2, which provides network connectivity on the move, at the quick halt, and at the halt,” said Shell.
According to Shell, “WIN-T Increment 2 enhances the resilience of the network to operate in a contested and congested environment. This is a significant mobility advantage over WIN-T Increment 1b, which delivers the tactical network predominantly at the halt.”
During NIE, several hundred observers are spread throughout the training environment to capture daily observations. They report their findings to the JMC integration and assessment division, which in turns helps generate and distribute their findings to different organizations responsible for the exercise.
Having worked with the network since 2013, Capt. Zachary Jones, the headquarters company commander for the 1-26th Infantry Regiment, has witnessed the evolution of technology evaluated at NIE.
Since 2011, there have been many improvements made to existing equipment, including improvements to the software and hardware of individual systems, Jones said. The current technology helps lessen the chance for human error created by miscommunication.
“We as Soldiers need to invest in this,” he said. “We’re setting us up to become a better Army by having a better way to communicate.”
FORT BLISS, Texas — Along with testing new equipment, Network Integration Evaluation 17.2 creates an opportunity for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and other participating units, to increase their readiness through realistic and demanding scenarios against peer or near-peer threats.
For the 2/101st AB, preparation and training for NIE started while they conducted operations in Iraq, according to Col. Joseph E. Escandon, the brigade commander. While deployed, they found innovative ways to use older technology — compared to the equipment being tested at NIE 17.2 — to enable Mission Command, he said.
“When [2/101st AB] returned in January, they had a lot of combat experience in the use of mission command systems and how to maximize its effect,” he added. “They were using the network to gain a position of advantage in what they were doing.”
TACTICAL, MOBILE, AND AGILE
In March, training for NIE was in full swing, as the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command established a forward presence at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to integrate with the brigade.
Under the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, JMC executes realistic and rigorous exercises to provide Soldier feedback on emerging concepts and capabilities that will improve the combat effectiveness of the joint force.
“Compared to previous NIEs, [JMC] has deliberately carved out time for the brigade to increase readiness,” said Col. Charles Roede, the JMC deputy commander. “We want to make sure that they leave a better-trained unit and set them up for success.”
Army senior leaders have said future operations will require a need for decentralized command and control centers and disbursed formations of Soldiers. To meet the needs of the warfighter, JMC has created a similar training environment.
“[NIE] helps Soldiers prepare for the fight we are going to have in the future,” Escandon said. “We are not going to fly into a country and walk onto a forward operating base.
“Out here, we’re tactical. Soldiers are walking around in full battle rattle,” he added. “We haven’t brought out any sleeping tents or cots. We are getting back to basic Soldier fieldcraft and learning how to adapt to our environment.”
Throughout the exercise area of responsibility, freshly dug foxholes and a crude perimeter of razor wire appeared to be the only line of defense between 2/101stAB and the opposing forces.
“If the Soldiers are uncomfortable out there while having to move while fighting, I think that is what the chief of staff of the Army envisions what the future fight is going to look like,” Roede said. “We are trying to create a combat-training-center-caliber experience for the testing unit.”
OPERATING IN MULTIPLE DOMAINS
In addition to providing valuable feedback to Army senior leaders on ways they can modernize the Army’s tactical network, JMC also evaluates how a brigade operates in a dynamic battlefield.
As potential adversaries continue to develop their ability to engage with U.S. forces across multiple domains, the Army’s future operating environment will be highly contested, congested, and lethal.
“The concept of multi-domain battle is that all domains (land, air, maritime, space, cyberspace domains and electronic spectrum) will be contested. The U.S. cannot assume the superiority of any given domain consistently,” Roede said. “Multi-domain requires that the commander creates the conditions that contribute to areas of superiority across multiple domains, and exploit that temporary superiority to accomplish the mission.”
To try and replicate parts of the multi-domain environment, 2/101stAB provided Soldiers to participate as opposition forces. After extensive training from JMC, the Training and Doctrine Command G-2 (Intelligence) OPFOR directorate certified these forces.
Throughout the evaluation, the OPFOR team, augmented by some local personnel, contested the ground and air domains through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-tank guided missiles, upgraded rocket propelled grenades and anti-aircraft missiles.
In addition to ground and simulated air combat, 2/101stAB experienced the effects of offensive electromagnetic capabilities: jammers, sensors, radars, and other cyber capabilities in an attempt to degrade, disrupt, or exploit their operations.
“From a network perspective, a congested environment is the proliferation of everyone using everything, from cell phones to garage door openers to the internet — that utilizes the electromagnetic spectrum to send and receive. On top of all that, you have the military use of that spectrum,” said Col. Bert Shell, JMC’s chief of the Network Integration Division. “It is an invisible traffic jam in the sky.
“One of the benefits of doing NIE on the White Sands Missile Range is that there are limited places in the U.S. that you can do live, threat-type electronic warfare activity. Since White Sands controls the airspace, we are authorized, in a controlled matter, to use some of the representative threat-type jamming systems that allow the testing unit to understand the effects.
As a unit is going through a jamming process, it provides with an opportunity to exercise their primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency communications plan, he added
“The benefits of going through that and seeing it in real time are invaluable to a unit,” He said.
THE WAY AHEAD
The rise of urbanization and the growth of megacities have made the operational environment even more complex, according to Douglas L. Fletcher, JMC chief of staff.
“Although we have historical examples we can look at, none of them are very good … when you consider operations in a city of that size,” he added. “How do you organize for that and win; and what does win mean?”
The focus of JMC is to stay ahead of the competition and continue to adapt and innovate.
“When you look at the ever-growing urbanization worldwide, the megacity phenomena presents a dynamic problem set for future military operations,” Shell said. “We need a communications network that is agile and can operate and enable mission command in any environment.”
English Clergyman William Pollard once said, “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.”
On July 26, the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy welcomed the Army’s change team, Gen. David Perkins and Command Sgt. Maj. Dave Davenport of Training and Doctrine Command, for the purposes of recognizing some USASMA individuals who are the “change agents” of the new and improved Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System.
Perkins began his address to the Academy staff by noting it was a good day to be at USASMA.
“What you are doing here at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy is quintessentially at the heart of what TRADOC is for,” Perkins said. “The Army created TRADOC to change the service, not to keep things ‘status quo.'”
Perkins said that USASMA plays a big role in that change and is uniquely designed for change.
“Our NCO Corps is the envy of the world,” he said. “We are really taking (NCOPDS) to a new level and a lot of the work is done right here at USASMA. You are the mantle of NCO Professional Development and you need to be the model of change; change for the better; staying on the cutting edge.”
Davenport said the changes he envisioned 2 years ago looked at what the Army was going to face in the future. The creation of the Select, Train, Educate and Promote system put into effect a forcing function of getting Soldiers to school, which meant that the schools’ curricula needed to change to meet the future as well.
“When they come into that academic environment we are going to challenge them,” Davenport said. “We are going to make sure that when they leave, they’re changed. They are no longer followers, they are leaders. Today we are going to recognize these great change agents for all the work they have done to get us where we are at now with the curriculum.”
With their remarks ended, Perkins and Davenport invited the awardees center stage for their recognition. The first to be recognized were Sgt. Maj. Eugene O’Day and Master Sgts. Jesus Gonzalez and Kevin Kendrick of the Curriculum Development and Education department. The trio were awarded the Army Commendation Medal for their work on the analysis, design and development of six levels of distributive learning, formerly known as structured self-development, and four levels of resident courses. Following the military awards, Perkins and Davenport presented the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service to 12 members of the Curriculum Development and Education department for their work on the analysis, design and development of six levels of distributive learning, formerly known as structured self-development, and four levels of resident courses. Receiving the award were Hugo Cantu, Carl Carlson, Dennis G. Earle II, Robert Edwards, Raffaele Francisco, Jason Henderson, Gerardo A. Hernandez, Sharonne J. Jacobs, Reginald B. Mainor, Richard L. Philpott, Roland Reyes Jr., Michael Roth and Gregory Woolfolk.
The USASMA is responsible for developing, maintaining, teaching, and distributing five levels of Enlisted Professional Military Education — Introductory, Primary, Intermediate, Senior and Executive. Each level best prepares the soldier to fight and win in a complex world as adaptive and agile leaders and trusted professionals of Force 2025.
I took a couple of days of summer vacation to recharge, and I hope many of you had the opportunity to do the same. Now as promised, I am continuing from last week’s entry on my recent travels.
While I was at Fort Bliss, Texas, I had the opportunity to spend a week at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy and attend the Sergeant Major of the Army’s Senior Enlisted Leader Development and Training Conference. In this week’s blog, I would like to focus on my time at USASMA.
Soldiers may not realize the changes, stemming from the NCO 2020 Strategy, that I share on the blog and at the town halls effect all levels of professional military education. There has been a lot of discussion about the writing program and assessments that we are working into the curriculum for all noncommissioned officers. Some NCO academies have also begun writing programs that lead to some sort of a writing competition. I would like to share the work going on at USASMA as an example of this effort.
Over the past year, USASMA has established a holistic program to broaden senior NCOs’ ability to convey thought and ideas through writing, with a goal of developing more than just an understanding of Army Regulation 25-50, Managing Military Correspondence. I was completely blown away with the writing award winners’ work, and I asked them if I could post it on the blog as an example of what we want to develop throughout all of levels of PME.
I hope you are just as impressed as I was reading these essays. Improving the written and oral communication skills of our NCOs is one of the tenants of NCO 2020.
In next week’s blog, I will give you an update on how we are improving structured self-development and developing the common core subjects that will be addressed in all levels of PME.