Army realigns field support, positions Soldiers as first line of defense

By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, PEO C3TJanuary 29, 2014

Army realigns field support, positions Soldiers as first line of defense
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky. with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) are the first to use the Army's new System of Systems, or SoS, training for the integrated communications package known as Capability Set 13. The... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Army realigns field support, positions Soldiers as first line of defense
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD. (January 29, 2014) -- As the drawdown from Afghanistan continues and military spending decreases, the U.S. Army is embracing a field support concept where Soldiers serve as the first line of defense for troubleshooting of mission command and network capabilities.

This realignment, pioneered by the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or C4ISR, community, will shape field support to meet the needs of the smaller, more mobile and agile Army of 2015 and beyond.

The concept builds on a Soldier-tested, four-tiered process tailored to smartly do more with less, while avoiding across-the-board cuts to field support personnel. It also aligns with the Army's overall effort to deliver troops the information they need to achieve tactical dominance through simplified, more intuitive communications systems.

"This effort doesn't decrease the level of support to the U.S. Soldier," said Richard Licata, field support optimization chief for the Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T, architect of the new field support construct and co-lead of the C4ISR Field Support Integrated Process Team, or IPT. "Instead, it's utilizing smaller, multi-functional field support teams to accomplish the same level of support, while at the same time transitioning a decade's worth of contractor-developed knowledge back into the hands of the Soldier."

The move comes after more than 12 years of war when mission command and network weapons systems were brought to theater at a rapid pace. This push equipped Soldiers with the state-of-the-art technology needed to complete their missions, but often meant that Soldiers who were continuously engaged in deployment preparations lacked the time and training to expertly operate and maintain C4ISR equipment. Instead civilian field service representatives, or FSRs, and digital service engineers or DSEs, were embedded with troops to maintain equipment readiness and provide technical assistance.

The new field support construct, developed by the C4ISR Field Support IPT -- which consists of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, or CECOM, Tobyhanna Army Depot, PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors and PEO C3T -- addresses the need to provide a baseline of support instead of a one-size-fits all solution.

The approach is backed by data. Of more than 10,000 field support trouble tickets that the Army examined from pilot tests and validation exercises at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., and National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., 78 percent of the issues recorded were training-related and could have been resolved at lower echelons had training been performed at home station prior to the rotations.

Already, Soldiers are embracing an expanded role in managing and supporting their network systems.

At Fort Campbell, Ky. the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), or 3/101, is the first BCT to use the Army's new System of Systems, or SoS, training for the integrated communications package known as Capability Set, or CS, 13. The SoS training leverages Soldier knowledge and creates an underlying familiarity with how the equipment supports operations. It includes a train-the-trainer concept, where a brigade "slice" of about 125 Soldiers are brought in first to train with CS 13 in order to establish proficiency before introducing the gear to the full brigade for collective training events.

"We have the signal resources, we have the knowledge base, and it has just never been exercised before," said 1st Lt. Jesse Cooper, information system manager with the 3/101. "Now we're saying, 'the Soldier needs to learn it.'"

With the SoS training, developed and led by PEO C3T, the "slice" of trained Soldiers will lead their brigade throughout subsequent training events with CS 13 equipment.

"Instead of it being FSRs out there leading these guys, the units are going to have a whole cadre of Soldiers that have been through the training, so now the unit can set this up," said Tom Eberle, PEO C3T's technical "trail boss" assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. "This is the first time in an operational brigade that we're employing the SoS training concept. We've said, 'let's train the units to do that -- let's help them to help themselves.'"

Under the new tiered field support plan, Soldiers are the first to troubleshoot issues. If they are unsuccessful they can escalate a trouble ticket to a tier 1 team of multifunctional logistics assistance representatives, DSEs or select FSRs for mission critical or high-density systems. This multifunctional team has the capability to cover all C4ISR weapon systems in the field, and each member is aligned to a specific weapon system or group of weapon systems based on skill set requirements. The individuals assigned to the escalated ticket will not only work to resolve the issue, but also be required to share the resolution technique with the Soldier through over-the-shoulder training.

If resolution is unattainable, the appropriate system-specific subject matter experts at tier 2 will attempt to resolve the issue primarily through remote or telephonic support, and if needed, pass to tier 3 engineers to determine a hardware/software modification.

The new field support model is being implemented across combat training center rotations and home station training exercises between fiscal years 2014 and 2015. It is projected to reduce costs by 40 percent annually through at least fiscal year 2019.

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