By John P. BoyceApril 25, 2016
"Having a 'fight-tonight-mindset' is at the heart of what Army readiness is about," a Fort Bragg general told more than 500 military communicators, information-technology professionals and Soldiers during an April 19-21 symposium in Fayetteville, N.C. "Our whole warfighting concept across the U.S. Army is about rapid deployment, expeditionary operations in a very austere environment."
"All sorts of Army units are involved in developing this fight-tonight mentality," said Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, N.C., which includes rapid-deployment forces such as the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y.; the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky.; and Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne Division. The general's keynote speech was part of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association North Carolina Chapter's "TechNet Fort Bragg Symposium and Exposition 2016."
The general cited other Army units with this warfighter, expeditionary-operations mindset -- including Army forces assigned to the Korean Peninsula, Army chemical and logistics units.
Over the past 15 years, "we've gotten used to a certain way of doing business," Townsend said. "That way of doing business typically revolves around well-developed bases, forward operating bases, buildings, Prime Power and fiber optics. We've got to get back to the ability to go anywhere on no-notice and do the same kind of business that we would from that Forward Operating Base, or close to it."
Recently, the 101st Airborne Division had this past year a "no-notice deployment to Africa to deal with the Ebola crisis in a very austere environment, very rapid, no spin-up, no train-up" prior to the lifesaving mission, Townsend said.
"Just a few months ago, Hurricane Joaquin landed heavily on South Carolina, with a lot of damage and flooding in the Columbia, S.C., area and Fort Jackson. "We got a phone call at our headquarters from the Fort Jackson commander saying 'our water is out,'" Townsend said. Soon "we were alerting Soldiers to deploy to Fort Jackson: medical units, water purification units engineer units to help provide fresh water for two to three weeks."
Townsend discussed the meeting's theme, "Enabling Mission Command in a Joint, Interagency, Inter-governmental and Multinational Environment."
Over the past year, the XVIII Airborne Corps has been involved in exercises with NATO partners, he said, with Special Operations Forces partners, a training rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., as well as military training in Poland, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, and Spain. Townsend suggested the need for a "multinational port" on U.S. military command and control equipment so that multinational systems and translators can be plugged into a network with international partners, as well as inter-operating rapidly within the Department of Defense community.
"It's the tactical edge where our warfighters need the most capable communications and mobile communications," Townsend said.
"So how do you fight tonight?," he asked the group. "Take up the gear you have and know to use it. The gear you have in your communications room now is what you're going to fight with and you better know how to use it."
Making three requests, the general asked the communications and technology audience's assistance to help the Army "fight tonight," to slow the pace of capabilities-sets fielding "a bit" so the Army can catch up with training often needed with more complex technologies, and to "get leaner without losing our strengths."
Townsend noted that some tactical systems don't always integrate with technologies used in a garrison environment, like at Fort Bragg. Integrating tactical systems more into daily life on post needs to be objective. "We need to do everything we can to increase our repetitions," he said. He emphasized the need for security of tactical systems, but also to streamline technologies for Soldiers' use in garrison locations.
"You may have heard Gen. Robert B. Abrams use the term 'snap the chalk line,'" Townsend said, referring to the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command. "He's talking about slowing the pace of change to let folks catch up with fielding and the training" needed for military capabilities sets, so that people know a system thoroughly before we advance to the next version."
Townsend shared with the audience an acronym, CMTSCP: Complexity, Manning, Training, Signature and Command Post. He said the construct of this acronym gets at a central idea that some military-capabilities sets fielding initiatives and their associated challenges are overly complicated. It's sometimes "too complex, the manning is challenging, it requires too much training, has a massive electronic signature, and command posts that aren't quick to install, operate, maintain and to displace."
The general also offered the group several "quick wins" that the Army is striving to achieve with industry counterparts in the near future. "One of them is secure, wireless connection for command posts . to make them more survivable and mobile at battalion, brigade and division levels.
"Wireless connectivity and lightening our systems at the battalion and brigade level are the single biggest things you can do to help us now," Townsend said. "We're issuing to Air Assault and Airborne brigades and battalions Signal nodes that require 5-ton trucks to move them. Those things aren't going to go on the Airborne assault. They're not going to go where the light infantry typically goes. I am very much looking forward to getting those communications systems in Humvee-size vehicles that we can deploy, airdrop, airland and sling-load under a helicopter. We need that now.
As another example, the general mentioned he had a simple request -- an "urgent, operational needs request from the field" -- a cell phone application for a red-lens flashlight, rather than white light, to comply with battlefield illumination precautions.
He also discussed the need to field radios both with vehicles and with leaders for dismounted operations. "We need satellite-enabled radios for squads and platoons wherever they are located, without being tethered to their vehicles. I am very much looking forward to that," Townsend said. He also discussed the associated need for secure Integrated Position Locating Information systems to locate and protect Soldiers on the battlefield when away from their vehicles.
"Our institutional training . and tracking of Signal people" are other quick wins, to ensure Soldiers are more familiar with tactical technologies," he said. Townsend discussed several ongoing Army pilots, such as a possible revival of Division Signal battalions; adding more Signal troops to current organizations; and creating an Army communications-support element that would be deployable, joint, inter-agency, plug-and-play node that would go with a Joint Task Force or an Army Division heading for a mission in Africa."
"What I am asking all of you to think about is constantly ask yourself "what does the warfighter need?," Townsend said. "The best way to figure that out is to talk with warfighters, go see them in the field at their exercises, get the developers out there in the field with the warfighters."