Faces of the Force: Lt. Col.(P) Robert M. Collins
May 1, 2013
FOTF Editor's Note: Lt. Col. (P) Collins was nominated for this feature by Public Affairs Officer Kyle Bond. "Lt. Col. (P) Collins has had a hand in groundbreaking work for Soldier communications," said Bond. "He has an important story to tell, and his experiences and perspectives make him an invaluable resource for the Army acquisition community."
FOTF: What do you do in the Army? Why is it important?
Collins: I serve as the Product Manager (PM) for WIN-T Increment 2, the Army's tactical backbone communications network, which provides reliable voice, video and data to Soldiers. The network is one of the top modernization priorities for the Army. WIN-T Increment 1 provided Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity communications down to the battalion level at-the-quick-halt. WIN-T Increment 2 provides advanced enhancements over WIN-T Increment 1, including unprecedented on-the-move communications capabilities down to the company level. It also introduces networking radios to the architecture and enhances Network Operations, a suite of integrated monitoring tools used to command and control the network.
The PM is also responsible for the development, system engineering, acquisition, distribution, integration, testing and production activities for the program. We oversee the cost, schedule and performance through lifecycle development, and lead a team of 52 uniformed, civilian and contractor personnel. The PM team also directs the project teams and working groups that provide the engineering, programming and testing expertise needed to develop network communication systems for Soldiers.
FOTF: What has your experience been like?
COLLINS: I'm fortunate to be a product manager that has been able to take such a large project through all the life cycles -- design, testing and securing a major procurement decision -- and this experience has been phenomenal. We're now getting ready to roll WIN-T Increment 2 into theater and it's been great to participate and experience all phases of acquisition.
FOTF: What has surprised you the most?
COLLINS: My biggest surprise has been the sheer impact the network is going to have on the way we fight combat and conduct the full spectrum of military operations. WIN-T Increment 2 will increase the pace at which the Army can move combat operations forward while significantly decreasing the military decision-making time cycle. It brings much needed network on-the-move capability and increased bandwidth.
What hasn't surprised me is our Soldiers' ability to train and become proficient with the WIN-T Increment 2 equipment. We have trained several hundred Soldiers to date, and they receive anywhere from one to 10 weeks of training. Increment 2 is a transformational communications system, and to see Soldiers train and operate this network and then deploy it is nothing short of amazing.
FOTF: What's the biggest challenge you face? How do you overcome it?
COLLINS: Like most programs, our biggest challenge that we currently face is continuous change and fiscal uncertainty. We've found that the best way to deal with that is through transparency; sharing information as much as we can. That transparency builds trust throughout our team, and trust is our biggest asset in dealing with the uncertainty.
FOTF: How has sequestration affected your program?
COLLINS: From a program standpoint, it may result in budget cuts, and from a team perspective, it has the potential impact of employee furloughs. We have a major system test coming up in May, while at the same time we are fielding equipment in Afghanistan and other locations. We continue to work to minimize the impact to the program and those valuable team members that support mission execution.
FOTF: What do you find most rewarding about your work?
COLLINS: Without a doubt, the biggest reward is the people and Soldiers I work with. The PEO and PM teams, the headquarters departments, the user communities and the units that we work with are fantastic. They're driven and motivated, and they put mission first. Also, seeing how WIN-T Increment 2 will enhance Army operations by delivering unprecedented network reliability and flexibility is very gratifying. We're modernizing the Army's network and transforming our networking by adding on-the-move capabilities and providing them to the lowest echelons.
FOTF: Why did you join the Army?
COLLINS: Like many folks, I came from a very patriotic family who taught me that honesty, integrity and hard work matter in life. At a very young age, I saw the military as a place that also valued those traits and knew it would likely be a good fit. After high school I enlisted in the Army and then subsequently attended college, where I became involved in Army Reserve Officer Training Corps. The team work, esprit de corps, rewarding challenges and the Army's care for my family kept me with the military over the years and looking forward to continued service.