By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, PEO C3T staff writerJuly 8, 2015
FORT STEWART, Ga. (July 7, 2015) -- The Army's most advanced situational awareness and friendly force tracking capability played a key role in the Marne Focus training exercise at Fort Stewart, Ga., transforming the way lower echelons communicate and navigate on the battlefield.
Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division (2/3ID) used the Army's new Joint Battle Command - Platform (JBC-P) capability during the division level exercise. It enabled them to pinpoint friendly forces, track enemy forces and identify hazards such as improvised explosive devices on a user friendly, Google Earth-like digital map that populated throughout the brigade in near real-time.
The 2/3ID is the first unit equipped with JBC-P, which features satellite-linked situational awareness data, easy-to-use chat capabilities, drag and drop icons and touch-to-zoom maps.
"The chat functions are amazing," said Lt. Col. Scott Shaw, the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, part of the 2/3ID. "I have my captain conducting JBC-P chat with all three rifle companies, with the brigade headquarters, with the battalion headquarters; we're doing logistics chat, ops chat, fires chat and we're doing it out here separated from our brigade headquarters and in near real-time."
Marne Focus, held June 24 to July 2, is a critical training exercise used to validate the division's command and control capabilities and to prepare the 2/3ID for their upcoming training event at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Ft. Polk, La. The event included command and control elements from the division headquarters, all of the 3ID's brigades and joint assists from the Air Force.
Primarily used in vehicles, JBC-P provided Soldiers during Marne Focus with a complete picture of the battlefield so they could better synchronize operations.
"It is revolutionary in our ability to communicate throughout the brigade and it helps simplify mission command," said Maj. Kevin Weber, the communications officer, or S6, for the 2/3ID. "I'm at the brigade, which is removed from the battalion's point of view, which is removed from the company and squad. With JBC-P you have that collective wisdom across all echelons and you come to a shared understanding."
JBC-P is an upgrade to the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below/Blue Force Tracking, or FBCB2/BCT, the widely fielded friendly force tracking system used in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. These capabilities are integrated on more than 130,000 platforms, fielded to every brigade combat team in the Army and resides in each tactical operations center.
Soldiers of the 2/3ID were also fielded next generation tactical computers, called the Mounted Family of Computer Systems (MFoCS), installed in several of their vehicles. These vehicle-mounted workstations enable multiple mission command functions to be collapsed onto one screen. JBC-P operates on both the existing FBCB2 hardware and on MFoCS.
The Marne Focus event provided the Army's first division-level training exercise using JBC-P and served as the culminating training event for the 2/3ID before its JRTC rotation. The exercise involved a number of exercises, such as a joint forcible entry, night air assault, Joint Air Attack Team exercise and combined live fire.
"It's significant that we are able to do this training here at Ft. Stewart," said Col. John Kline, commander of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3ID. "It's not just an installation that we can train our Bradleys and tanks, but incorporate our Joint forces as well. Today we did the first remote Hellfire shot using a Gray Eagle drone to designate a target with a laser and then have Apaches come up with Hellfire missiles and engage targets in the impact area behind us. That's a first, I think, of any home station within the continental United States."
As the 2/3ID moves into its JRTC rotation, JBC-P's simplified approach to communications at brigade and below will help Soldiers improve their operations tempo as they move into decisive action training, which focuses on expeditionary forces operating in austere conditions with a hybrid threat that includes guerrilla, insurgent, criminal and near peer forces.
"I can push an operations order to a company and then conduct a back brief using JBC-P chat and not have to leave my command post if I'm in a very austere environment or if the enemy situation dictates that I can't maneuver around the battlefield," Shaw said.
Looking to the future, JBC-P will serve as the foundation for the Mounted Computing Environment, or MCE, which will deliver Android-based warfighting apps as part of the Army's new Common Operating Environment, or COE.