G-3 says decades of digitization now paying off
September 13, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 10, 2010) - The Army is now reaping benefits in Iraq and Afghanistan from two decades of digitization, said the general who in May assumed the reins of the Army G-3/5/7.
Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger said some attending the Sept. 9 Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare breakfast might think cancellation of the Future Combat Systems program left the Army without much of a modernization strategy -- but the general fervently disagreed.
"The Army has modernized dramatically in the last decade," he said. "We did it through incremental upgrades. We upgraded everything -- from our rifles to our body armor to our fighting vehicles and aircraft."
Shared battlefield data through "the network" has been the most significant advancement, Bolger said, adding that it's about to improve further.
Bolger returned from Iraq in January, where as the 1st Cavalry Division commander, he spent a year there heading up Multi-National Division-Baghdad.
Some people wonder, he said, "how in the heck can we pick out one individual bomb-maker dressed in civilian clothes from 10,000 people in Iraqi villages who all look pretty much the same ... it's mainly because we can fuse and share information using modern technologies -- that's the power of the network."
Digitization in the 1990s with Force XXI and what followed enabled the Army to get where it is today, he said.
In the 1990s, the 4th Infantry Division was designated the "digitized division" to test technologies such as new radios, computers, ground-surveillance radar and unmanned aerial systems. A number of advanced warfighting exercises were conducted that also involved the 1st Cavalry Division.
One of the resulting advancements was the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below system. The FBCB2 has now been installed in thousands of combat vehicles from Abrams tanks to Apache helicopters and Humvees. It tracks friendly and enemy forces on the battlefield graphically and allows commanders to share video data as well as voice reports.
Now the Army Evaluation Task Force is testing Network Integration Kits at Fort Bliss, Texas, that include the FBCB2 and other components that share data between dismounted Soldiers, tactical vehicles and command posts. For instance, the AETF is this month conducting a limited user test of the Joint Tactical Radio System, Ground Mobile Radio. A single channel of that system can reportedly move data equivalent to 120 SINCGARS radios.
"We've got all kinds of digital network capability, from voice, data, video communications of all types," Bolger said, adding that connectivity and shared data is now reaching all the way down to company outposts where it's needed.
The Army has also fielded new weapons and equipment like the Predator unmanned aerial system and Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, he said.
"The great thing about this is we didn't tinker with it ... or test it to death; we just got the stuff for our Soldiers, let them work with it, and made the improvements they suggested," he said.
Equipping and training Soldiers for combat is what the G-7 part of his job is all about, Bolger told those at the AUSA breakfast. The G-5 part is about strategic planning, he said.
One of the most significant strategic decisions impacting operations in theater, Bolger said, has been the Army's decision to go with unit-based force rotations -- what today is called the Army Force Generation model.
That new method for the generating force to provide capability to the combatant commander differs greatly from what the Army did during the Cold War, the Korean War or the Vietnam conflict, he said. In those conflicts, the Army used individual replacements.
While proving successful, the decision to rotate entire units was a tough one, Bolger said.
"Frankly it was taken against the advice of a lot of people," Bolger said, adding that it was never-the-less a "courageous" decision that's had a huge impact. It has enabled unit cohesion, he explained
Bolger was promoted to lieutenant general and assumed duties as the Army's deputy chief of staff for G-3/5/7 in May. Prior to that he commanded the 1st Cavalry Division, and before that he commanded the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. Earlier in his career, he commanded a brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea. He also spent three years as an instructor at West Point in the late 1980s and has authored several books, including "Dragons at War: Land Battles in the Desert."