TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. -- A partnership between Tobyhanna Army Depot and the Software Engineering Center (SEC) is helping shape the future of software sustainment for the military's communications-electronics systems. The SEC is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command.

Continual advances in computing, communication and information technologies have opened the door for Team Tobyhanna to produce a large, highly-skilled technical force of field software engineers (FSEs). FSEs offer a software sustainment capability that will bring balance to the organic and industry support provided to the warfighter in accordance with Title 10 of the United States Code.

Tobyhanna's shift into the software world is being driven by technology, according to Corei Somerville, C4ISR Directorate's Intelligence Collection Systems Branch chief and project lead. He pointed out that system hardware and software are more intertwined today than ever before and personnel now have the opportunity to learn about both. FSEs have to be aware of the overall operation of the system they support.

C4ISR stands for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems used by the military.

Software is a general term for the various kinds of programs used to operate computers and related devices, as opposed to computer hardware, which is the physical component of computers. Domain experts stress that computer hardware and software require each other and neither can be realistically used without the other.

"Having already established a reputation for field support on the hardware side, it was an easy transition [to software]," Somerville said. In addition to new hires, 60 of the depot's field service representatives (FSR) have converted to an FSE position. On top of maintaining the hardware associated with a system, personnel will also be responsible for software installs and upgrades, and troubleshooting issues. "We plan to have 150 software engineers on the payroll by February and over 200 by the end of fiscal year," he added.

Matt Lieb and George Bennett are the first Tobyhanna FSEs to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the SEC Southwest Asia mission.

While there, Lieb had the opportunity to work with Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines making sure their emergency radio systems were mission capable.

"The most challenging part of the job is being one of only a few Combat Survivor Evader Locator (CSEL) FSEs and meeting the demand that comes with that," Lieb said, noting that his 10 years of field work experience does help. "It's rewarding to work on a system that helps keep military personnel alive and safe."

A deployed SEC employee saw the potential in joining forces with Tobyhanna to support emerging technology and meet customer needs.

"I knew the program would ensure flexibility and stability with a mixed government and contractor FSE workforce to support CECOM maintenance responsibilities worldwide," said William Buttner, who was assigned as the C4ISR Support Manager overseeing CECOM Software Sustainment requirements and activities in theater.

SEC provides the software expertise needed to support command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as logistic, business and enterprise systems in the modern digital environment, according to the center's website.

"Matt and George deployed to support our post production software support requirement and have done an outstanding job," Buttner said. "They provided assistance and expertise to multiple units in several services and special operations."

Bennett's career boasts 22 years in the Army working in an Army Battlefield Control System providing software and hardware technical support for the Fire Support Command and Control System (FSC2). After retiring, he worked in the industry, then started working for Tobyhanna as an FSR in June 2015, serving as a FSC2 senior field software engineer in Fort Stewart, Georgia.

"The most rewarding aspect of this job is the opportunity to share what I know about field artillery with the warfighter," he said, adding that it's vital Soldiers know how to keep the equipment operational. "I provide advice, assistance and training pertaining to the installation, operation and maintenance of the FSC2 systems."

Tobyhanna and SEC are cultivating existing knowledge, skills and abilities to increase the Defense Department's organic footprint in the field of software sustainment.

"This is a paradigm shift for Tobyhanna," Somerville said. "We're changing the face of depot maintenance by transforming the scope of capability and setting the stage for future workload."

Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for C4ISR systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna's Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C4ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.

Tobyhanna's unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our Joint Warfighters.

About 3,100 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.