Warfighter Initialization Tool puts the power of change in signal officers' hands
August 9, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (August 9, 2013) -- Keeping unit commanders aware of Soldier and vehicle locations has become much simpler for the S6 with the fielding of the Warfighter Initialization Tool (WIT).
Prior to WIT fielding, if a unit received new communications equipment, it would be electronically tagged with generic information until updated by a field service representative (FSR) or added to a new set of system initialization data for that unit. Until then units would see only the generic or re-purposed role names, thus reducing the commander's situational awareness (SA). With the fielding of WIT, updates can now be made much faster at the brigade level, improving SA and better enabling the unit to meet its mission requirements.
"Senior commanders at a tactical operations center might be looking at an SA icon on a mission command system screen and see a generic or obsolete role name," said Aaron Bennett, WIT systems engineer, Project Director Tactical Network Initialization (PD TNI). "Soldiers couldn't even change the name."
Without the WIT, an S6 would have previously been required to send any change requests to PD TNI and then wait for a new data product set to be generated and sent back to the field -- a costly multi-month process requiring coordination and updates made to numerous systems.
"We needed a solution that addressed the needs of the Soldier, was technically sound and benefited everyone in the long run with reduced costs," said Kevin Rowe, PD TNI chief engineer, who worked extensively on meeting the challenge of making available to Soldiers a capability that was once only the purview of field support and development teams.
Initialization Allows Digital Systems to Talk to Each Other
PD TNI produces data products required to initialize Army tactical network systems and to enable system-to-system exchange of mission command, collaboration and SA data. Systems that require these data products include Mission Command capabilities, Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below/Blue Force Tracking and other Army Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems. These data products are loaded into the Command and Control Registry (C2R) within Project Manager, Mission Command's (PM MC) Command and Control Infrastructure (C2I) Virtual Machine, allowing common access and distribution of initialization data across the Army's tactical network.
PD TNI developed the WIT to give signal officers the ability to update PD TNI provided data products, add new systems to the network or move systems around within the C2R. Units can now modify the provided data files according to their current mission, resulting in more accurate data being displayed on the common operational picture for the unit and senior commanders.
WIT software was generated using an agile software development process. Rigorous testing ensured the Army was receiving quality, useable software that allows unit S6 personnel to add, modify or delete data as required for their mission. With WIT, Soldiers now have a significant increase in the flexibility of their data products. To balance this flexibility, the WIT team included forced validation checks to reduce the risk of incorrect information being loaded.
The WIT capability affects multiple C4ISR systems, and it is essential that these systems maintain standardized formatting and naming conventions to remain interoperable. Thus, the WIT development team needed to closely collaborate with multiple Army project managers to ensure WIT provides a new capability without negatively affecting existing systems. PD TNI worked extensively with PM MC to ensure the seamless integration of WIT into the common software baseline virtual machine hosted on the Battle Command Common Services (BCCS) server stack.
Thorough User Testing
WIT was demonstrated and tested at Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) and Army Interoperability Certification events. PD TNI FSRs trained Soldiers on the capability, starting with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, during NIEs 12.1 and 12.2 in the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012.
WIT received a positive Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) evaluation at the NIE 12.2, where it was a system under evaluation. The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) Software Engineering Center (SEC) granted a formal software release of WIT in February 2013.
WIT has been fielded to the 3rd and 4th Brigade Combat Teams, 10th Mountain Division, representing the first BCTs to be fielded Capability Set (CS) 13, the Army's first integrated, mobile communications package that connects all echelons of the BCT. PD TNI will field WIT as part of the CS 13 baseline and will integrate this functionality into future CS fielding and upgrades.
"The capability is tremendous," said Maj. Graham Wood, S6 for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. "With the WIT tool, we've got the ability to adjust the network on demand for the unit. It takes a little time, but you're now talking hours and days instead of months."
The WIT team has gotten very good feedback from people who have used it.
"The 82nd Airborne participated in a user jury with us and they provided us with things they liked," said Santo Porpiglia, WIT systems engineer. "The feedback from people in the lab environment at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., has been positive as well. It's good to know the intent was met and that you are filling a Soldier's need."