Mirroring home station and deployed mission command systems improves Soldier readiness
August 21, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Aug 26, 2013) -- To improve their readiness, Soldiers at several U.S. Army installations now have daily access to the tactical mission command systems they will use when deployed, preparing them to carry out missions in the areas of maneuver, fires and logistics.
Led by U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) and implemented by Project Manager Mission Command (PM MC), the new initiative called Installation as a Docking Station (IADS) is already showing promising results.
"All you have to do is unplug, load and go," said Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, Army Chief Information Officer/G6. "There is no train up -- you've been training."
With ongoing fiscal uncertainty, the Army has been forced to limit field exercises. With systems accessible at garrison, units can conduct more robust training at home station and save the time and costs associated with moving a unit to another location.
In July, 2011, the 43rd Sustainment Brigade, Fort Carson, Colo. became the pilot location for IADS, followed by Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Riley, Kan.; Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash.; Fort Gordon, Ga.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; and Fort Bragg, N.C. This list is growing, as all FORSCOM-controlled units -- about 90 percent of the Army -- have been directed to comply with IADS.
"As one of the force providers to the Combatant Commands (COCOMS), we have to make sure Soldiers are trained, ready and equipped, and units can conduct specific missions defined by tasks," said Col. Jonas Vogelhut, project manager for Mission Command, which is assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). "For PM MC, that means we must ensure the tactical information technology systems we produce will operate on the garrison SIPRNET network."
Soldiers at the IADS-equipped bases can now sharpen their skills on several PM Mission Command systems, such as Command Post of the Future (CPOF), the commander's collaborative and situational awareness system; Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS), the automated fires support system; and Battle Command Sustainment and Support System (BCS3), the logistical reporting and visibility system.
Familiarity with mission command systems is just one facet of ensuring a unit's digital readiness; back-end servers must also stay up-to-date with the latest Information Assurance (IA) protocols, such as firewalls and system patches. Even a Soldier well-versed in CPOF can't deploy if his or her server exhibits vulnerabilities.
"Several rationales led into IADS, but one of the key justifications was Information Assurance compliance so that when it was time for a unit to deploy, it did not have to wait for information systems to be updated" said Chief Warrant Officer (CW) 3 Timothy Coen, Chief Technical Advisor for Product Manager Strategic Mission Command (PdM SMC), which is assigned to PM MC. "Any network security concern could ultimately keep thousands of troops at the line of departure."
Timelines can be especially critical for rapid deployment units such as the 82nd Airborne Division in support of the Global Response Force (GRF) mission, which may only have 18-24 hours' notice to deploy. Keeping the 82nd ready means keeping the servers connected and populating real data they can use.
"The 82nd Airborne Division's use of IADS establishes one user identity, thus enabling the Soldier to access their data throughout the operational sequence of a Joint Forcible Entry/Airborne Operation," said Brig. Gen. Charlie Flynn, Deputy Commanding General for Operations, 82nd Airborne Division. "This capability reduces the digital 'blink' for commanders and leaders as we expeditiously deploy "
Once in theater, the troops assemble the systems and migrate the servers forward, alleviating a time gap from the time the airplane departs and arrives at its destination. The core services are immediately operational because common services have not been sitting in a connex box waiting for the deployment order.
"With our Battle Command Common Services server stacks online all the time, we can constantly make changes and work on our products throughout our busy schedules to prepare for any upcoming operations," said CW2 Lawrence Adams, an Information Systems Technician for the 82nd Sustainment Brigade, which provides support to the GRF. "We can incorporate our tactical systems more now and train as we fight anytime, not just during exercises."
With IADS, unit commanders have the flexibility to decide which Mission Command systems they wish to train on. The PM MC team facilitates the conversations between the units, FORSCOM and the 7th Signal Command, which provides Army enterprise network capabilities, and the Network Enterprise Centers (NECs) to establish the connections to their home stations.
"Once connected to the applicable mission command systems, we help train the Soldiers on how to access and operate their systems," said Brad Mcneillyanta, IADS project representative for PM MC. "This partnership has provided us with lessons learned that we have used to refine our processes and documentation for subsequent installations."
These lessons learned have resulted in several efficiencies in both time and taxpayer dollars. For instance, PM MC discovered they could manage nearly all of the IT systems as a fleet for standards and security "patch" updates, reducing repair time by 60 percent.
"Before we implemented IADS, we would identify a vulnerability in the system, analyze the problem, develop a patch, and burn the patch onto a CD, which was then mailed to the unit," Coen said. "This process took on average 12 weeks, with the bulk of the time lost disseminating the patch. We now post the patch on the 7th Signal Command's secure portal, making the same resolution available in at least half the time."
Soldier readiness must span across joint operations. Maj. Gustavo Mendiola, the communications officer for the 82nd Airborne Division, said his unit successfully tested IADS during Joint Operation Access Exercise 13-03, held this summer to prepare paratroopers, Air Force and Marines for joint combat operations. Mendiola said the division is now inserting the use of IADS into unit Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure rear area operations accurately mirror deployed joint force entry operations.
"We may be asked to fight from home station, extending combat power from Fort Bragg to a forward location, similar to what has been conducted in past humanitarian missions before Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)," Mendiola said. "Continued development of IADS to ensure interoperability with COCOMS and enterprise resources is critical to establishing seamless mission command capability for the warfighter."
Moving forward, the Army plans to incorporate IADS into simulated training exercises that reside on the operational network. With enhanced mission command and network technologies providing IADS to home stations, today's Army is proactively preparing for the Army of tomorrow.
"The benefit of IADs is that we move closer to training as we fight, using the same systems in training as we do on our warfighting networks," Flynn said. "Integrating training and simulations into IADS is a near term challenge, yet in the longer term the benefits of 'training and fighting' on the same network are extraordinary. It's a huge paradigm shift for the Army."