Faces of the Force: Lt. Col. James Kennedy
September 19, 2013
- "Throughout my deployments then and what I see on the battlefield today, this capability has absolutely changed the operational side of the Army."
For this aviation officer, the last two years of his career have taken flight--both on and off the ground. While he found his passion as a pilot early in his career, Lt. Col. James Kennedy now finds himself drawing on his aviation experience to orchestrate the complex task of ensuring the Army's unmanned aircraft systems provide real-time information to inform and influence decisions that affect the warfighter on the ground and in the air.
And it's not as simple as launching a UAV and waiting for data. Providing real-time information requires careful integration an orchestra of multiple systems in the air and on the ground in multiple locations, and Kennedy's office is the conductor. Relying on a professional team of Soldiers, civilians and contractors with years of experience, Kennedy is developing new methods and technology to provide the most sophisticated, automated and interoperable systems to benefit our forward-deployed Soldiers and allies.
"We're the office responsible for interoperability of all the data collected from manned and unmanned aircraft on the battlefield," Kennedy explained. "We're also responsible for a certain level of integration of ground control stations as the Army moves toward a universal operator concept--the ability to integrate and different types of air vehicle systems from one ground control station while providing real-time information."
Achieving such a complex task comes from years of development and testing. This month marks the two-year anniversary of the first ever Manned-Unmanned Systems Integration Capability (MUSIC) exercise--the largest demonstration of manned-unmanned interoperability ever attempted that has paved the way to building a universal operator concept.
FOTF: What do you do in the Army? Why is it important?
KENNEDY: As the Product Manager for Common Systems Integration, I supervise a team of outstanding individuals who work daily across PM UAS to provide centralized management of the Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS), Universal Ground Data Terminal (UGDT), the One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT), and the interoperability standards that allow these systems to interoperate seamlessly by passing data between the air and ground for both, manned and unmanned platforms.
Our responsibility remains in managing common capabilities to support our user representative at Fort Rucker, Ala., as we progress towards the concept of a universal unmanned aircraft system operator. We're also the executive agent for manned/unmanned technologies across PEO Aviation and represent Army UAS interoperability at the DOD level.
These technologies are important because they enable the commanders and Soldiers on the ground and in the air to be able to make real time decisions based on the data from the unmanned aircraft. Ensuring these systems are interoperable also gives commanders the advantage of having access to all of the assets in their battle space to aide in the decision making process.
FOTF: How close are you to achieving a universal control concept?
KENNEDY: Pretty close. The intent is to have a UGCS operate multiple types of air vehicles from a single ground control station. We demonstrated it once in 2011 during the MUSIC exercise and took those lessons learned and tied them to our software development processes in a very deliberate manner. Depending on the budget, we should have the technical capability to fly the Shadow and Gray Eagle [with one UGCS] during late fiscal year 2015.
FOTF: What has your experience been like? What has surprised you the most?
KENNEDY: After two years on the job, I can tell you that it has been a great experience primarily because of the team of people we have working for us and their ability to positively manage a very difficult mission that requires coordination and persuasion to influence an acquisition process. The results of our efforts and products are making a difference in the lives of our warfighters every day.
From a surprise standpoint, it is really impressive to see the results of a lot of hard work and dedication to the mission come together in a way that results in such a positive impact to the warfighter. Every day I go into work knowing that there will be challenges and that we will overcome challenges because I have the most professional and dedicated government and contractors on my team.
FOTF: Is there anything in particular that stands out to you about your team? How long have they been working in this program?
KENNEDY: I have a great team with a wealth of knowledge and expertise. I have been a part of many organizations in my career and I can tell you with certainty that we absolutely have a first-class team. Some have been here for as little as two years or less. The deputy product manager has been here the longest--more than 15 years in PM UAS, working this mission hard from the ground-up.
FOTF: Where have you deployed?
KENNEDY: When I served at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, in 2008 and 2009, at Fort Rucker, Ala., I had the opportunity to deploy to many locations around the world. I supported division commanders in both Iraq and Afghanistan during this time on multiple occasions. The experiences I gained during those times are not only some of the most memorable, but also some of the most satisfying in my 22 years in the Army.
Throughout my deployments I have had the opportunity to see first-hand how this capability has absolutely changed the operational side of the Army. These Soldiers have the ability to draw on information in real-time, and the ability to pass it to commanders, the tactical operations center, or to the Soldier on the edge of the battlefield enabling them to make better command decisions. And, now that we are integrating the same technology into our manned platforms, we are able to take full advantage of manned-unmanned teaming. From the aviation perspective, it's made a big difference. It's truly amazing.
FOTF: Why did you join the Army? What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army?
KENNEDY: As a second generation military officer, I grew up knowing what it meant to serve others, serve the nation, and be a part of something bigger than myself and I knew that I wanted to give back the same way that my father did. The greatest satisfaction of serving in the military has been the interaction with people that I have met and worked with over the years. As an institution, the Army is all about people and every day I am just amazed at the quality of the Soldiers and their spouses and their dedication to making a difference in the lives of others.