FORT POLK, La. (April 21, 2017) -- Speed and agility are critical capabilities when it comes to mission-command and tactical network systems that support Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).

The 1/10 completed its two-week rotation in March at Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center, where the unit trained and validated its newest communications and network equipment in a realistic operational environment.

Capt. Lucas Reece, 2-22 Infantry Battalion signal officer-in-charge, or S6, stressed that his support to the commander of a light-infantry brigade depends on being "light and mobile."

"When operations get moving with such a large organization like this, you need time-critical, time-saving devices to push the information up or pull it from below," he said. "We have to streamline that as efficiently as possible."

Part of the BCT's JRTC rotation examines how commanders and Soldiers use their recently fielded network communications equipment, known as a Capability Set (CS), which combines tactical radios, mission-command devices and network systems to transmit voice, data and video for enhanced situational awareness. A unit's CS is designed as a tool kit for commanders to align updated capabilities with its missions, and it also completes integration of individually fielded equipment.

The Army fielded and trained 1/10 Soldiers with CS 16 from July 2016 to November 2016 at its home station of Fort Drum, New York.

JRTC prepares Soldiers for deployment by providing training scenarios in a complex, realistic and challenging combat environment, developed for individual Soldiers through the brigade level. Sgt. 1st Class Albert Lubitz, who recently returned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, now serves as an observer-controller-trainer (OCT) at the JRTC. His role is to provide feedback by rating Soldiers' performances and tactics.

"I observe the units coming through with the capability sets," Lubitz said. "Based off doctrine that has been published, we provide recommendations, coaching and training points to bring Soldiers up to speed on the equipment. Explain how they can get the training, where they're lacking on the training and how to better implement the systems."

In addition to OCTs, JRTC employs hundreds of exercise role players acting as medical support, opposing forces, foreign civilians and insurgents to support training requirements for the units.
Maj. Craig Starn, the brigade signal OIC, S6, manages the commander's networks.

"I integrate the networks in a manner that support the maneuver fight and enables the commander to have presence across the entire battlefield," Starn said. "I try to take the command post and give guidance on where they should go that will assist in distributing that communications network.

"As long as everything is working in accordance with how it's supposed to, the commander can influence all the battalions and even to the company level. His guidance and direction is pushed downward [via the Army's tactical network] to the subordinate elements. They can then react and operate within his intent and guidance. That's the whole purpose of what we do is for him to be able to project his thoughts and manipulate the ground forces to put the brigade in a favorable position to either fight or defend."

Sgt. Ryan Bender is an automations team chief who oversees mission-command systems, which are enabled by the unit's mobile Warfighter Information Network --Tactical (WIN-T) network equipment.

"My role is to give [commanders] the ability to make informed decisions on the battlefield; make sure we battle-track correctly and ensure we're passing off data to the people who need it," Bender said. "The [mobile WIN-T] Tactical Communications Node (TCN) and Satellite Transportable Terminal Plus (STT+) are the infrastructure of everything. When we jump, I don't have to shut everything off. When we land, we don't have to start from scratch and spending hours on setup."

The TCN provides the principal network backbone element and supports command post operations. While at-the-halt, the TCN is equipped with a 10-meter, extendable mast to improve line-of-sight connectivity and larger satellite assemblage for high throughput. The STT, a trailer-mounted ground satellite communications terminal with a generator, is used with the TCN to provide network satellite communications.

Starn also lauded the Joint Battle Command -- Platform (JBC-P), which is part of the 1/10's Capability Set 16. Soldiers use JBC-P inside tactical vehicles to track friendly and enemy forces, as well as mark hazards through an interface that has features like touch-to-zoom maps and drag-and-drop icons.

"[JBC-P] provides us the ability to text-chat to collaborate beyond line of sight, which is invaluable. So many of our systems require us to stay in general proximity to work effectively, and that's not the case with JBC-P," Starn said. "We can really stretch our legs and extend our network and talk to units that are disaggregated for miles and miles. It also shows us a common operating picture of the battlefield to show where units are and how to direct them appropriately. It's a visual way to communicate."

Reece described the vital nature of a unit's mission command and communication capabilities.

"In today's age in a [tactical operations center] setup like this, we have everybody monitoring and collecting all the information from our companies," Reece said. "We have to have the computers set up so we can efficiently type, chat and listen at the same time to provide that multitasking ability.
"If we have only one platform, it hinders us and begins to bottleneck all those communications. All those decisions have to be made very rapidly. If there's a glitch, it's a chain reaction and can be catastrophic."

Capability Set Management is fielding network components, associated equipment and software that provide an integrated network capability from the static tactical operations center to the dismounted Soldiers.

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The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical develops, acquires, fields and supports the Army's mission command network to ensure force readiness. This critical Army modernization priority delivers tactical communications so commanders and Soldiers can stay connected and informed at all times, even in the most austere and hostile environments. PEO C3T is delivering the network to regions around the globe, enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to a user base that includes the Army's joint, coalition and other mission partners.