Drone technology validated at NIE 16.2
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A U.S. Army Soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, sets an unmanned observer drone during the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.2 at Fort Bliss, Texas, May 8, 2016. The Army used the NIE process to i... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers validate capabilities at NIE 14.2
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Second Heavy Brigade Combat Team Soldiers synchronize communication equipment prior to boarding a CH-47 Chinook helicopter for an air assault exercise April 30, 2014, during Network Integration Evaluation 14.2 at Fort Bliss. The field exercise not on... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Soldiers conduct realistic training at AWA 17.1
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, provide security during the Army Warfighter Assessment (AWA) 17.1 exercise at Ft. Bliss, Texas, Oct. 23, 2016. The soldiers conducted training to assess concepts and capabilities in... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BLISS, Texas - In 2011, the Brigade Modernization Command began the Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, based on guidance from the Army, to integrate tests on networks for brigade-level units and below primarily focused on mission command system of systems and other emerging network capabilities.

"The idea was fairly simple, how can we get down to at least one set of networks within the brigade combat teams," said Douglas L. Fletcher, BMC Chief of Staff. "As you can imagine, if everyone is different, think about how much that costs and most importantly, can you talk to one another."

Conducting NIEs two times a year created an opportunity for event-driven operational testing as opposed to schedule-driven testing. For example, if a system was not ready to enter operational testing at one NIE event, it would have the opportunity to enter testing in a subsequent NIE event. So far, 11 NIEs have been conducted at Fort Bliss, Texas and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

"Almost two years ago, TRADOC [U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command] determined that for us to look forward into the future, we needed to extend our vision in the Army of where do we want to be," Fletcher said. "This is called Force 2025 and Beyond. So we went on to try new things in terms of how we want to fight, how we are organized and what are the capabilities we want as an Army and that idea became to be the Army Warfighting Assessment."

AWA 17.1 is the Chief of Staff of the Army's annual capstone exercise that will focus on the refinement and improvement of concepts and capabilities in an operationally relevant and demanding scenario, beyond the constraints of the NIE's formal testing environment.

The AWAs enable the Army to increase the pace of innovation through early engagement with industry, government, other services and multinational partners.

More than 5,000 personnel have been participating in this year's exercise, including elements from I Corps and 1st Armored Division, along with joint participation from Marine Corps, Air Force and Special Operations units, as well as five multinational partners from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

"This is an important exercise that soldiers should be excited to be a part of, not just for the training aspect, but for the fact that they're informing the future army leaders on what the army will use and how the joint force will fight in the future and that in itself is exciting," said Col. Keith R. Jarolimek, BMC, Chief of Operations.

Jarolimek emphasized how the AWA is helping to shape the battlefield of the future, as the Army keeps current with ever-changing technologies and warfighting challenges.

The evolution of the AWA is to maintain readiness in an operationally realistic and rigorous exercise, enabling Soldier-led assessments of concepts and capabilities for future force development and while AWA will not replace NIE, the Army will continue to do NIEs only once a year instead of two.