Ironhorse conducts Mission Command Systems Integration exercise
March 18, 2013
FORT HOOD, Texas - Leaders and soldiers of the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry division conducted phases one and two of a Mission Command Systems Integration training exercise at the Deployment Ready Reaction Field's Tactical Operations Center (TOC) Pad, Feb. 19 to 22, here.
MCSI is a three phase model the Army uses for training said Caguas, Puerto Rico native, Jose Torres, a senior analyst, with the government contractor Computer Sciences Corp., who aided the Ironhorse Brigade with MCSI.
The purpose of this MCSI is to develop confidence in Ironhorse's mission command systems, and perform keys tasks such as: establish a TOC, test power generation, ensure systems integration, train staff at battalion and brigade levels, practice battle drills and validate the TOC's Standard Operating Procedures in preparation for future collective training events at the National Training Center and the Joint Multinational Readiness Center.
"Last week we set up the command post, which was phase one," Torres said. "This week (phase two), we are learning how to manage tactical information."
Torres added that equipment used during these two phases is the same equipment the brigade recently received from reset.
Reset is the process in which a unit's equipment is turned in to the appropriate facilities, taken apart, cleaned and updated with the newest hardware or software upon return from the last major exercise or deployment. Also during the reset process, broken, worn or missing components are replaced and the equipment is returned to the unit for use in future operations.
Torres further explained that in addition to validating the various systems used during phase two, it is very important that the users, senior section leaders and staff members are trained on the individual systems. He also said understanding the equipment's terminology is key in order to better manage critical information the commander needs to make informed decisions.
Torres said, for this MCSI training event, he is the task leader responsible for making sure the unit has all the right support it needs, like field support representatives. Also during MCSI, he ensures the majority of the unit's equipment is out of reset.
"I take you guys through the process from start to finish and right now we are almost at the finishing phase," Torres said. "As a task leader, it is my responsibility to make sure (I) get you guys through all the three phases."
Systems Integration is in the name of MCSI and when it comes to the exercise, communications and capabilities must also be included in the planning phase.
"The signal guys, we have to know what their plan is, how far the unit is going to be stretched out across the battlefield to make sure we can communicate, there are limitations," explained San Antonio, Texas native, Maj. Nathan Schmutz, the senior communications officer of the Ironhorse Brigade. "If you are planning on going down this valley, where are you going to set up your (retransmission) so we can communicate?"
Schumtz explained that it's important that all the staff sections, especially the communications section, get together so the commander can be advised on what can be done based on capabilities and limitations.
"My job is to bring all the systems from the different entities within the brigade, the different personnel that have a different type of function for the mission command and make sure those systems and those sections can communicate," said Schmutz.
According to Schmutz the communications section did a great job coming together to ensure the brigade's command, control and communications systems were successfully integrated. He added that systems like the Command Post of the Future, the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System and Ventrilo, were integrated and operational.
Schmutz explained his shop installed about two miles of internet cables for internal and external communications as well as established secure and non-secure telephone networks.
While conducting phases one and two of MCSI, Ironhorse simultaneously conducted a planning exercise that included key staff-section leaders of the brigade.
"It's a great opportunity for us to conduct repetitions of the military decision making process out in the field instead of garrison environment," said Findlay, Ohio native, Maj. David Weising, an air defense officer and the Ironhorse Brigade plans officer.
As a plans officer, Weising said he is responsible for coordinating all staff war-fighting functions in order to create a single product that can be briefed to the commander.
Weising said in a tactical environment the brigade is continuously planning while simultaneously conducting operations and the current pace of MCSI is how the brigade fights.
Weising stated this is the first major training exercise the brigade has conducted since returning from the latest deployment and this MCSI exercise is not restricted to the brigade staff.
"This the first time that all the battalions of the brigade have been interlocked and trying to exercise their systems," Weising said.
Col. Steve Gilland, the commander of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division laid out his vision for the third phase of MCSI.
"We have to get more mobile, more efficient in order to be more effective for the battalions," Gilland said.
Gilland acknowledged the importance of being proficient on all command, control and communications systems, but also emphasized the significance of being able to capitalize on analogue systems as well.
"The cyber threat is building every day," Gilland explained. "(I want the Signal Officer) to shut us down digitally for a certain amount of time for contingency so we know how to react and operate for daily business."
Torres said he thinks the unit, as a whole, is doing great.
"It's going marvelous. This has probably been one of the premiere set-ups that I've seen in the last five to six years that I've been doing this," Torres said. "This brigade tends to do really well with MCSI."
Torres said he hopes this exercise gives soldiers and leaders the confidence to establish a TOC, operate their respective systems and manage critical information the command team needs in peacetime or war.