USA — Commanding troops ‘on the move’ during NIE

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — The Army is eval­u­at­ing the mis­sion com­mand-on-the-move capa­bil­i­ties that allow Sol­diers to com­mu­ni­cate ver­ti­cal­ly and lat­er­al­ly through voice and data in a tac­ti­cal oper­a­tional envi­ron­ment.

Sol­diers from 1st Bat­tal­ion, 35th Infantry Reg­i­ment, 2nd Brigade Com­bat Team, 1st Armored Divi­sion, engage in a sim­u­lat­ed raid using wear­able com­put­er sys­tem and held hand devices dur­ing the Net­work Inte­gra­tion Eval­u­a­tion 12.1 exer­cise at White Sands Mis­sile Range, N.M.
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The test­ing and eval­u­a­tion of the net­work com­po­nents, or tech­nolo­gies and sys­tem capa­bil­i­ties, is occur­ring through a series of semi-annu­al net­work inte­gra­tion eval­u­a­tion exer­cis­es, at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Mis­sile Range, N.M.

More than 3,800 Sol­diers from the 2nd Brigade Com­bat Team, 1st Armored Divi­sion, are oper­at­ing both sys­tems under eval­u­a­tion and sys­tems under test and employ­ing them in var­i­ous real­is­tic com­bat sce­nar­ios in oper­a­tional­ly-rel­e­vant ter­rain designed to repli­cate the envi­ron­ment in Afghanistan.

“We have mul­ti­ple tasks out here. We are eval­u­at­ing 15 to 20 rapid-equip­ment-field­ing items, of which some are net­work and some are not, and they are intend­ed to go right into the­ater in Afghanistan and oth­er places,” said Col. Daniel Pin­nell, com­man­der of 2nd BCT, 1st AD.

“On top of that, we have a longer term project to work for the Army, which is this data and voice net­work intend­ed to be field­ed from the indi­vid­ual Sol­dier up through the brigade com­mand post — brigade tac­ti­cal net­work, both voice and data,” Pin­nell said.

The data and voice net­work will oper­ate and meet dif­fer­ent require­ments in dif­fer­ent types of fights, Pin­nell added.

“I may use the same soft­ware or appli­ca­tions on each one of the devices in any type of con­flict or envi­ron­ment, but what I’m ask­ing of it may be com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent,” said Pin­nell.

An exam­ple Pin­nell gave was that of a typ­i­cal major the­ater of war between two near-peer com­peti­tors.

“Cer­tain­ly, in the major com­bat oper­a­tions phas­es of that oper­a­tion, I’m not pay­ing very close atten­tion to per­son­al­i­ties,” he said. “I’m not col­lect­ing bio­met­rics, by and large; I am not doing a lot of detailed pat­tern work on a pop­u­la­tion or an area. I am ene­my focused, for­ma­tion focused.”

“My ques­tions will be dif­fer­ent,” Pin­nel explained. “I’ll still use the same device at the Sol­dier lev­el to help me under­stand where I am, where my peers are, where I am being told the enemy’s been observed, and what he’s up to. But I’m doing it for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, and I’m look­ing at dif­fer­ent cues to help me make my deci­sions on what to do.”

“That’s the same from indi­vid­ual Sol­dier all the way through brigade com­man­der,” he con­tin­ued. “If the data and voice net­work works as intend­ed — if we get the through­put in secu­ri­ty on it and the appli­ca­tions that we’ve envi­sioned — it’s going to be able to meet those needs.”

Two fun­da­men­tal pri­or­i­ties of the cur­rent NIE 12.1 are, first, for com­man­ders to be able to com­mand and con­trol while they’re mov­ing, and, sec­ond, to pull infor­ma­tion out of the net­work and get it to a Sol­dier lev­el, said Brig. Gen. Ran­dal A. Drag­on, com­mand­ing gen­er­al for the Brigade Mod­ern­iza­tion Com­mand, Army Capa­bil­i­ties Inte­gra­tion Cen­ter, under the Army’s Train­ing and Doc­trine Com­mand.

Radios and hand-held devices are made avail­able down to the lev­el of the indi­vid­ual dis­mount­ed Sol­dier, added Drag­on.

“You can look back in his­to­ry and think about how we com­mand­ed on the move,” said Drag­on. “At one time we used mes­sen­gers or run­ners. We’ve used flags while we were mov­ing for­ma­tions. We’ve used radios to be able to talk to one anoth­er. In this dig­i­tal age, we’re now able to pass infor­ma­tion rapid­ly — large quan­ti­ties of infor­ma­tion to cre­ate a com­mon pic­ture so that com­man­ders can com­mand effec­tive­ly and get their Sol­diers to the right place at the right time.”

Dur­ing NIE 12.1, Sol­diers from 1st Bat­tal­ion, 35th Armored Reg­i­ment, 2–1 AD, used hand-held com­mu­ni­ca­tion devices to eval­u­ate mis­sion com­mand-on-the-move capa­bil­i­ties in a sim­u­lat­ed sce­nario in which pla­toons of Sol­diers were search­ing for high-val­ue tar­gets in a sus­pect­ed impro­vised explo­sive device fac­to­ry.

Sgt. Ryan Moore, a team leader from C Com­pa­ny, 1–35 AR, said he used the Rifle­man Radio sys­tem that is designed to give voice com­mu­ni­ca­tion through every­body in the team– from the high­est to the low­est lev­el in the pla­toon.

“I think it’s impor­tant for Sol­diers, because it gives each Sol­dier an over­all sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness and it takes out a few steps,” said Moore. “As opposed to hav­ing to get up from where my posi­tion is — say if I’m dug in some­where, and [I have to] run over and check on a Sol­dier or pass infor­ma­tion on to a Sol­dier — if he’s got a radio I can call him and tell him what’s going on, or he’s mon­i­tor­ing the radio, so he’s hear­ing the same traf­fic that I am.”

Sgt. William Wil­son, a team leader also from C Com­pa­ny, used the wear­able com­put­er sys­tems, Wire­less Net­work After Next and Nett War­rior, in a mock raid sce­nario.

“Basi­cal­ly what that was sup­posed to allow us to do was to bet­ter shoot, move and com­mu­ni­cate,” said Wil­son. “And to give a first­hand view for all the Sol­diers on the ground; that way they can keep up to speed on the oper­a­tion in every phase.”

Wil­son said the sys­tems are designed to accel­er­ate the flow of infor­ma­tion, giv­ing Sol­diers the added advan­tage to respond.

“The faster that we know every­thing, the bet­ter we can be in react­ing to all the changes that can hap­pen on the bat­tle­field,” Wil­son said. “The Nett War­rior allows us to help pop­u­late from a bird’s-eye view [using] satel­lite imagery. It helps us pop­u­late basi­cal­ly the maps giv­ing cur­rent check points, and things such as that.”

Moore said he believes the Army should pur­sue tech­nol­o­gy that facil­i­tates fire and maneu­ver and sur­vival in close com­bat. The sys­tems should allow Sol­diers to access key infor­ma­tion any­where, at all times and all the way down to the small unit and Sol­dier lev­el, he said.

“It goes back to the basics of what we all do — shoot, move and com­mu­ni­cate,” said Moore. “All this equip­ment lets us do that faster. There’s no shoot­ing flares in the air to sig­nal things any­more. I can call some­body, and every­body knows; we’re all on the same page at the same time.”

US Army

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