Fires Battle Lab takes DA-level awards
April 18, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla.-- The Fires Center of Excellence Battle Lab at Fort Sill garnered team and individual Department of Army awards for modeling and simulations experimentation for fiscal 2012.
The team develops software programs that help provide military leaders data and analysis for advanced combat planning and strategy.
Burt Montague, Fires Battle Lab models and simulations chief, said the Army Capabilities Integration Center tasked the battle lab with Joint Fires Experiment 2012. Its goal was to inform the transition of the current force to Army 2020.
The team planned, prepared and executed a federation to inform 19 learning demands compiled from Training and Doctrine Command centers of Excellence, the Air Force, Navy and industry partners. The federation replicated multiple brigade-sized organizations to develop and review multiple capability gaps from integrated air and missile defense between joint service partners to directed energy systems used in the defense of allied forces against unmanned aerial systems.
Montague said the battle lab has always functioned looking into the future and representing future systems. Through these simulations, battle lab personnel may influence things that might happen 10-15 years from now.
"Our job is to look forward several years at what we may be doing in 2020, for example, but we don't have the technology of 2020," he said. "So we have to figure out how to make today look like 2020; that's just one of the challenges we have."
Increased demand for their expertise, with the arrival of air defense artillery to Fort Sill, was another challenge the FCoE Battle Lab faced. In addition to that expanded mission, the staff also worked exercises and experiments with the Navy Ballistic Missile Defense and with the Air Force and Marine Corps.
"We're doing fleet synthetic training now, helping to certify Navy ships," he said.
Overseeing the daily operations of these simulations required a talented individual able to grasp the inherent complexities and communicate those with other lab members.
Bill Green, age 51, filled those shoes as the fires simulation database manager. The retired chief warrant officer won his first DoA award for Joint Fires Experiment. He said the award shocked him, because everything done at the battle lab happens through teamwork.
"What meant more to me than the award was the people going through the effort to nominate me," he said. "In a team environment like we have, you really can't single one person out."
Green also served as the battle master during experimentation where he conducted the various events within the experiment. This included drawing data from eight or 10 simulations, tying those together and managing how they worked together. All combined into one single picture, Green provided that to commanders or experimentation personnel to use to draw their analyses.
"Instead of looking like 50-60 separate simulations, it looks like a single flowing battle," he said.
Chris Niederhauser, Modeling and Simulation branch chief, said Green "single-handedly runs the day-to-day simulation fight," which frees up computer scientists to focus on working future changes and enhancements in simulations.
"I work with a talented group of people, and it's very interesting and enjoyable work," Green said. "I look forward to coming to work every day."
The battle lab staff consists of everyone from recent college graduates to employees with lengthy resumes. One of those seasoned civilians, Robin Sexton, has worked civil service for 28 years and been around the battle lab since its inception.
"It's really good to get this type of award, because we've done a lot of work over many years without the recognition," he said.
In a time when budgets are shrinking in many areas, the battle lab provides the Army a very essential service, he said.
"We do concept developments taking a look at ideas early on before a lot of money is spent on them. We'll either make them more robust or say no to those that aren't worth continuing to develop," he said.
For the people who use their products many might not understand the relation to physics and how things react in the real world. But these intricate details contribute to the battle lab's simulations.
"The capabilities of the Fires Center of Excellence Battle Lab allow the Army to save a tremendous amount of money," said Montague.
Through computers, lab personnel can test theories that might otherwise require building and destroying physical models until they realized the desired outcome.
Because technology continues to expand, battle lab members stay current with software development and maintain subject matter proficiency on the weapons systems they represent in simulations. To better prepare themselves for this changing environment, staff members further their education to better distill complex problems into simple components represented in computer simulations.
In the complex field of simulations operations, the Army provides professional development options for civilians through its Career Program 36. In 2012 Montague and Sexton became the first battle lab employees to complete a master's degree of engineering in modeling and simulations from Arizona State University.
Along with Green, Niederhauser, Montague and Sexton, other team members were Maj. Saul Gonzalez, Capt. Tom Veld, Brian Carney, Kay Bowen, Scott Fagan, James Gardner, Jeffrey Milam, Lee Abbott, Matthew McLaughlin, Tyrone Matheney and Samuel Saiz.