ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The Army's tactical Public Affairs and Visual Information professionals will soon begin to receive significantly improved tools for their missions.

The Tactical Digital Media program has been approved for full-rate production and will start issuing kits to Soldiers in PA and VI units in spring 2018. Army G3/5/7 sets the fielding priority according to units that will be deploying and are in greatest need of the equipment, said Kyle Perkins, product lead for TDM, assigned to Project Manager Mission Command.

Brig. Gen. Omar Jones, Chief of Army Public Affairs, said the new capabilities are long overdue as these military occupational specialties have struggled for years to procure the standardized equipment necessary for their operations.

"The designation of 'Information' as a seventh joint function adds significant emphasis on the ability of Public Affairs and Visual Information professionals to acquire and transmit imagery," Jones said. "The TDM greatly enhances their capabilities to support their commanders and operations in the emerging information domain. Through rigorous testing, the TDM program met or exceeded every requirement and expectation."

TDM kits will enable these Soldiers to gather, process and deliver digital audio, imagery and video files through kits composed of digital multimedia cameras, video-editing equipment, laptops, lighting, night-vision devices and audio gear. The TDM laptops will be approved to operate on Army computing networks once additional authorizations are obtained. This step will be a significant milestone for these career fields as connecting photo and video equipment to Army networks is not currently allowed because of security concerns, Perkins said.

Evaluation kicked off in July 2017 as one of the first kits was issued to the Public Affairs Office of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. Twenty Soldiers then conducted the second testing phase at APG over two weeks in October 2017. The final piece before fielding was to put the gear through the rigors of combat during rotations at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Now that the Army has approved TDM as a program of record, Soldiers will see several benefits:

• The media kits will be standard issue to units through centralized procurement funding to eliminate the need for purchasing gear through their own funds.

• Because the equipment is now standardized, training becomes easier, readiness will increase, and equipment will be easier to maintain.

• Specialized equipment tailored to a unit's mission is now authorized. In addition, all kit components have national stock numbers to enable ordering through the standard Army supply system, which saves time and money.

• The Army has procured the kits at less than wholesale prices as companies are competing via a General Services Administration eBuy contract.

Fifty-four units are authorized to receive kits through Sept. 30, 2018. For inquiries on accelerated procurement of TDM kits, email usarmy.apg.peo-c3t.mbx.pm-mc-tdm@mail.mil.

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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.