REF, CDID use collaborative process to design prototype
January 23, 2014
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Jan. 22, 2014) -- The Army's Rapid Equipping Force and the Maneuver Center of Excellence's Capabilities Development and Integration Division partnered together here last week to produce a prototype mobile command post.
The project was part of the rapid equipping force, or REF's CoCreate effort, which saw a website, www.armycocreate.com, launched to support Soldier innovation and allow for online collaboration to design solutions for project problems.
"We started the Army CoCreate effort because, at the REF, we are always looking for ways to improve our internal processes and remain rapid," said Col. Steven Sliwa, REF director. "We wanted to test if industry best practices for crowd sourcing and co-creation would be applicable for Army requirements and technology solutions."
The mobile command post was built by modifying a Kawasaki Teryx all-terrain vehicle and was developed over the course of about 25 working days.
Those 25 working days fell between a "Make-a-Thon" held here Dec. 9-16 and a second event Jan. 13-16.
Sliwa said the collaboration between REF and capability development integration development, or CDID, during that time was essential to the success of the project.
"We knew we needed a like-minded partner and Soldiers to provide end-user feedback during the design process," Sliwa said. "We absolutely could not have tested this proof-of-concept, or designed a mobile command post prototype, without our solid partnership with CDID. They provided 17 exceptional NCOs and officers for this event who directly shaped the successes and lessons learned."
During the initial "Make-a-Thon," Soldiers and engineers came together to develop a model of the mobile command post using cardboard and plywood before reconvening during the second "Make-a-Thon" to create a working prototype.
A number of modifications were made to the ATV, including the development of seats specifically designed to support Soldiers in full combat gear.
"My favorite modification to the vehicles is the new seat system that was developed," said Staff Sgt. Randon McMaster, a Soldier from Mounted Requirements Division who helped work on the mobile command post. "It's nice because it's modular, and for those of us that wear full combat gear and have a Camelbak strapped to your back all the time, the seat is designed so that you can just go ahead and sit in it and won't get pushed forward anymore. The other piece of that seat that is of critical importance to us is a lumbar support that you can actually rest your body armor on while you're seated and it takes the weight off your shoulders."
In addition to the modular seats, the mobile command post also features a quiet run feature that enables the vehicle to run silently for up to four hours and a modern communication system that is intended to provide battlefield commanders with an increased sense of situational awareness.
"A mobile command post like this prototype could easily be used in current fights or really any location around the world where we currently have troops," said REF Sgt. Maj. Jose Quinones. "It can be used in a humanitarian assistance environment where a company commander could have command and control of his troops and also be able to communicate with higher command and incorporate those current technologies we've been talking about. It gives the commander that current situational awareness on the ground."
McMaster said the implementation of the modern communication system was one of the most challenging aspects of the process.
"We increased the battery capacity and changed out the alternator in favor of a bigger one so we could have a better charge while the vehicle was running," McMaster said. "By having that greater battery capability, we can also use a power amp for our radio, which allows us to push our signal out further and have a bigger bubble that our Soldiers can work in with good communication. There's also a 4G data network that can push critical information both down to the squad level and up to higher levels, giving better battlefield situational awareness."
The 4G data network is established using a dedicated generator and server on the mobile command post, giving Soldiers in the immediate area access.
Throughout the project, Soldiers and engineers were able to check the CoCreate website and solicit feedback from members of the online community.
"It's been a wonderful experience working with these engineers and being able to communicate with the online community," McMaster said. "Some of the ideas I've seen on the website have been surprising, but amazingly simple stuff that we've been wishing we had for years. The ability to see it all come together during this project has just been great."
The CoCreate project is not done yet. The website will remain live for the next 30 to 60 days at a minimum, and the REF will conduct surveys for the online users to get their opinions on how to potentially improve the process and the website moving forward.