ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD -- The US Army recently debuted certified foundation training for Army space-based operations and national security space needs, here.
Hosted by the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, the Army Space Cadre Basic Course, or ASCBC, provided certified training to 37 military and civilian personnel to ensure that the Army has mission-ready space operations officers and civilians who understand fundamental space capabilities, systems and operations.
"The ASCBC," said Lt. Col. Brian Jones, military deputy for CERDEC's Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate, or S&TCD, "Is part of a national training strategy to educate Army personnel on the Space Domain."
The intent behind bringing this particular training to APG was to reinforce to Soldiers and civilians an understanding of how their particular C5ISR system fits into the Systems of Space, said Jones, who also noted that the students came from commands and Army Acquisition organizations across the Northeast -- including the United States Special Operations Command, the U.S. Army Cyber Command, the Asymmetric Warfare Group, and various Program Executive Offices, or PEOs.
As the Army's applied research and development center for command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance - or C5ISR - innovation, CERDEC develops and matures capabilities that support Army Modernization priorities and enable tactical overmatch for the joint warfighter. CERDEC's S&TCD develops and integrates the Army with dependable, secure and reliable connectivity for everything from hand-held to platform-mounted Soldier communications for terrestrial and satellite-based systems.
"The bottom line" said Bebe Kovel, acting associate director for S&TCD's Office of Science and Technology, "Is you can't fight a battle without beyond-line-of-sight communications; if you are going to communicate, you need satellite or space-based communications."
With the Army relying heavily on Global Positioning System and Military Satellite Communications, the ASCBC gave attendees a better understanding of what Army satellite systems are used for and how space assets are utilized.
"This knowledge is important [to the students] because it gives them an opportunity to understand that the piece of equipment they're working on in the Science and Technology continuum is really part of a much larger satellite communication system that supports all transport of all wide-band communications for the Army and the other military services," Kovel said.
Satellite Communications, or SATCOM, is the universal communications tool for just about every function in the U.S. Army, said Michael Monteleone, acting chief of S&TCD's SATCOM Division, who explained that a majority of the Soldier's tactical communications gear relies upon some level of space-based or space-enabled technology.
"SATCOM's mission is to fill the gaps in Army communication and joint services communication capabilities by leveraging applied research and advanced technology development. Those capabilities range from networking to radio frequency communication to alternative or non-traditional communications," Monteleone said.
"At the end of the day, S&TCD's job is to take these advanced communications capabilities and integrate them into the larger Army enterprise and demonstrate how they would work. So we are driving requirements, we are driving concepts and we are showing what is feasible -- and not -- to help the Army make the best decisions possible in deploying modern and secure communications," he said.
Monteleone believes that helped serve the objective of the ASCBC, which was to teach attendees how the whole SATCOM system works and therefore explain the concepts behind how satellite signals propagate from Earth's surface up into space and back.
"That does not necessarily mean that you have to have an electrical engineering degree to understand that," notes Monteleone. "Whether you are an Army communicator or a logistician or you are an intelligence person, at some point you are going to be doing something that will traverse satellite or other communications.
"It is very important for everyone working within the C5IRS community to understand how satellite communications work. And this course helps turn the lightbulb in their head to say, 'Oh, I get it now and it makes sense to me!'"
Case in point is Staff Sgt. April Bryant, who is the new Supply Non Commissioned Officer with the 1st Space Brigade in Fort Dietrick, Maryland and is expected to know everything about every piece of communications equipment assigned to her unit.
But when doing inventory, Bryant was never quite sure when coming in contact with SATCOM equipment in use if she would erroneously throw the network system or a signal off, or even cause an error code to the system.
"I was clueless because this was my first time being assigned to a Signal unit," recalled Bryant, who is neither trained in Army Signals nor Communications. "People were using SATCOM terminology, which I had no idea what they were talking about, so it was imperative that I gained an understanding of all the tools related to the mission of the 1st Space Brigade."
"The instructors did an amazing job making sure it was explained to us in such a way where everybody in the class, including myself, could understand the material. I definitely came back from the course well-informed and can confidently explain to our incoming commander how a particular piece of SATCOM equipment is used," Bryant said.
Course topics included the history of the U.S. space program, basic principles of orbital mechanics, satellite command and control, military applications of space based imagery, U.S. weather satellite constellations, missile warnings, unmanned space support, spacecraft design and the characteristics of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Upon successful completion of the ASCBC, all the Soldiers attending the course literally can take their career to the ultimate height -- when they receive the coveted 3Y Space Cadre Additional Skill Identifier, certifying that they meet and have a basic understanding of Army satellite and communications capabilities.
Now, when they return to their unit or job assignment, they will be able to provide in-depth expertise and experience to better leverage space-related assets within their command.
"The course not only taught me the basic principles of satellite operations, it gave me a better understanding of how my radio functions, how we are using those signals, and how we are broadcasting them," said Sgt. Keila Peters, a radio specialist who serves as a CERDEC enlisted advisor. "More important, it taught me situational awareness. It is knowing how the U.S. stands against its adversaries in space and what we need to do to protect our country and mitigate future risks."
In addition, the 3Y Additional Skill Identifier fulfills the Army's educational requirement to earn an Army Space Badge -- the newest badge in the Army inventory.
"Because of the way space capabilities are constantly evolving, you have to stay up-to-date on what the current doctrine for the Army is and what the current trends are within the joint community in order to maximize your effectiveness as a 3Y Skill Identifier for Army space operations. This course does that," said Capt. Douglas Williams, assistant product manager, Joint Battle Command-Platform at PEO Command, Control, Communications-Tactical and an attendee of ASCBC.
Over the coming months, CERDEC will assess feedback from the attendees and instructors as they evaluate a second offering of the course at APG in the foreseeable future. So far the feedback has been positive.
"The ASCBC made me a better Soldier," concluded Sgt. 1st Class David Worthington, who serves as CERDEC senior enlisted advisor, "Not necessarily because I learned a specific skill or specific task that I perform better, but I am better educated and informed about the influences of the space technologies that I am using."