By Traci BoutwellJuly 2, 2018
By Joe Pangburn
The AMCOM Publications team supporting the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system proved their concept of the rapid release of updates to the field by releasing four technical manual updates to units around the world in the last 365 days.
Over the past five years, AMCOM technical manuals have averaged roughly one update every 20 months and the fastest programs release two updates per year, the THAAD program's four updates over the course of one year far exceeds the status quo and demonstrates a confluence of technological capability with a change in culture and process for the benefit of the Soldier.
The Army Operating Concept (AOC), Win in a Complex World, (Training and Doctrine Command Pamphlet 525-3-1) describes the challenges the Army believes it will face and must overcome in years ahead. According the pamphlet, to sustain high-tempo operations, the Army requires information systems that connect the strategic sustainment base to tactical organizations to provide a high degree of responsiveness and reliability. It also addresses the need to evolve existing technology and develop new technology to help reduce the logistics footprint.
AMCOM Publications is doing just that.
The AMCOM Logistics Center's Publications Services Division has developed and continues to refine new technology systems such as the Interactive Authoring Display Software (IADS), created by the division's Applications Branch, which allows Soldiers to view and easily navigate Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs) on a laptop or tablet device. This eliminates the logistical burden of units storing and transporting paper manuals that require printing, shipping, and manual page removal and insertion when changes occur to the technical manual.
"It is imperative now more than ever that we produce more accurate tech manuals quicker and more affordably and deliver these to the Soldiers as efficiently as possible," said Kyell Turner, the Publication Services Division Chief. "Tools we've created such as IADS4, combined with the dedication of our publication services team, are helping make those necessities a reality today."
The IADS technology and use of IETMs allows for updates to a manual to be sent directly to deployed units' IETM viewing devices, very similarly to an update received on today's smartphones and tablets.
"This increases readiness for our units and puts the most up-to-date information in the hands of our Soldiers," said Tech Writing Branch Chief Scott Harting. "I never want to hold information we could release. With IETMs, we can push information to the Soldier faster and more frequently."
The THAAD rapid release pilot program is part of a strategic initiative to bring about the Next Generation Technical Publications that will ensure Soldiers have the most accurate and usable operator and maintenance manuals. The initiative supports AMCOM's Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Doug Gabram's Line of Effort 1: Sustainable/Material Readiness, by helping establish responsive and optimized field support with the most up-to-date manuals available.
Harting challenged the writing team of Reese Potter, Joe Pangburn, Galvin Burks, and team lead Keyana Malone, along with Production Branch team members Nicole Mitchell and Danielle Royster, to work to release updates to the THAAD IETM more than any other technical manual in AMCOM.
"We wanted to transform the process and culture to get out of the normal mode of updating technical publications every one to two years or longer," Malone said." "The willingness of the team challenged the status quo and achieved something transformational."
The team presented the idea to and received buy-in from Cheryl Baker, THAAD Project Office's Chief of the Maintenance Support Division, and THAAD Publications Lead, Steve Hunter. Baker and Hunter knew there would be challenges to the effort, but, as an active program in today's environment, they thought the reward for the Soldier would be worth it and agreed to allow THAAD to test the pilot program.
"One productive benefit of the rapid release of IETMs is the fact that we can release after events rather than waiting to release on dates," said Hunter. "Another benefit is in situations when we have a small change that needs to be out to the users, we can release with only the one area changed or added rather than waiting to collect dozens or hundreds of changes to make a release."
The collective team learned that the latter benefit Hunter mentioned was a huge part of the culture and mindset shift needed by all parties to make rapid release a possibility and support the future Army objectives.
"Previously in publications, we might hold a release when another verification event is coming in three or four weeks that we want to get out there," Potter said. "We had to start thinking that we would release again soon and whatever doesn't make it in this revision will go out in the next revision just a few months later."
The rapid release effort could not have been possible without Publications Division Editing Branch team members Nichole Gray, Chris Brown, Neil McConnell, Juanella Wright and Teresa Ennis who all greatly assisted by giving excellent guidance and suggestions for future releases without offering preferential treatment.
Releases from the publications team were available to the Soldier to download Nov. 30, 2016; March 30, 2017; Sept. 8, 2017 and Nov. 28, 2017. In addition to the four updates to the IETM, in the same 365-day period, the team also conducted seven IETM verifications, authenticated two additional THAAD manuals, released one authenticated Modification Work Order and one Depot Maintenance Work Requirement, conducted verifications on three additional modification work orders and three additional requirements. And, they keep pushing forward.
"We're planning, along with partner project offices and contractor team members, what will be included in two and three revisions down the road," said Pangburn. "We have the flexibility to change the plan if we need to, but it gives us something defined for the whole team to work toward."
The team intends to keep the pace by releasing three more updates to the technical manual in the upcoming months.
The Army AOC states that what all Army operations will have in common is a need for innovative and adaptive leaders and cohesive teams that thrive in conditions of complexity and uncertainty.
The AMCOM Publications Division is pushing forward at the intersection of technological development and cultural change to be those adaptive and innovative leaders for the Army of the future today.