FORT BLISS, Texas (May 10, 2012) -- The 21st secretary of the Army, John McHugh, spoke to Soldiers of the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, during a walkthrough of the 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment's, tactical assembly area at Fort Bliss, Texas, May 9, 2012.

The 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, under the guidance of the brigade modernization command, is currently undergoing the third in a series of Soldier-led, capabilities assessments and integration called the network integration evaluation, or NIE, during which they will provide feedback on network and non-network capabilities in order to determine their implications across the Army.

"It's pretty cool when someone from much higher up in the chain comes out to see the Soldiers," said Sgt. William Wilson, one of the Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, who spoke with McHugh. "It shows that they care about the Soldiers."

Wilson and the gunner of a mine-resistant, ambush-protected All-Terrain Vehicle, known as an MRAP ATV, gave McHugh a brief description of the new network systems on the vehicle and their purposes during the evaluation.

"When somebody important makes time from their busy schedule to come visit us like this, it means we have an opinion," said Staff Sgt. Darryl Eid, a section sergeant in Company C, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, who viewed the secretary of the Army's visit as a very positive thing. "It means they care what we think."

What the Soldiers think about the network and equipment is one of the largest driving-forces behind the NIE, and is a large factor that determines whether or not equipment is purchased and fielded.

"We've helped the Army make some very hard decisions on cancellation of programs, radio systems and others, by providing the kind of feedback they needed from Soldiers about what really happened when we evaluated it," said Col. Daniel Pinnell, commander, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

The NIE 12.2, which began in late April, focuses on solidifying the current network baseline while adding the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical -- Increment 2, the Army's "on the move" satellite-based network connectivity set in a realistic, operational environment as opposed to a controlled test in a laboratory.

"This is one of the most important things, strategically, that this Army has taken up in recent years," said McHugh. "At the end of the day, what they do here that makes it particularly unique is that they put the equipment in the hands of Soldiers, lets them work with it, then takes their feedback and tries to make sure we're not just fielding something that looks good, but also operationally works well."

The NIE 12.2 will be ongoing through the month of May and will conclude in the beginning of June.

Page last updated Thu May 10th, 2012 at 00:00