Editor's note: The joint force is preparing for large-scale combat across land, sea, air, space and cyberspace. Under the Multi-Domain Operations concept, Army Materiel Command, or AMC, has reorganized and reshaped to ensure readiness of the Strategic Support Area, where military might is generated, projected and sustained during the fight. As a major subordinate command of AMC, the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, or CECOM, is contributing to Strategic Support Area readiness in four focus areas: Supply Availability and Equipment Readiness, Industrial Base Readiness, Strategic Power Projection and Logistics Information Readiness. This article is the third in a series highlighting each priority.
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. -- Imagine you're a Soldier with the 1st Cavalry Division, based in Fort Hood, Texas. It's April 2020, and you've just landed in Europe for Defender 2020, the largest U.S. Army-led military exercise in Europe in a quarter century.
You shipped out with barely more than your rifle and toothbrush, but your unit falls in on Army Prepositioned Stock, or APS, in Germany. There, you pick up all the gear you need for the exercise, from weapons to Humvees, tanks and trucks. You also receive the most up-to-date communications and electronics systems, like night vision equipment, GPS receivers, high-frequency radios, vehicle-mounted friendly-force trackers and more. Within 96 hours, your division is ready to simulate a defense of western and central Europe and the Baltics with almost 40,000 troops from 17 allied nations.
That didn't happen by accident. It took years of coordinated efforts by CECOM and other Army organizations laser-focused on keeping forward-positioned equipment ahead of the readiness curve.
The Army Abroad
As a globally responsive force, the Army must be ready to fight anywhere in the world, whenever it is called on. APS sites are one of the Army's most important priorities for strategic power projection, and it maintains seven such sites worldwide.
However, given that the Army uses APS only intermittently, historically these sites were not always outfitted with the latest equipment. In addition, because the Army was focused on counterinsurgency operations for much of the last 18 years, it had scaled down APS sites to be smaller and lighter.
When Gen. Gus Perna took command of AMC in 2016, and as the Army moved its strategic focus back to near-peer adversaries, that all changed. Perna directed AMC and its subordinate commands to configure APS sites for large-scale combat and stock them with enough equipment for an entire brigade or division, up to 15,000 Soldiers.
In 2017, CECOM began working with Army Sustainment Command to modernize command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or C5ISR, platforms at APS sites. A team of CECOM technicians from Tobyhanna Army Depot started with APS 4, in South Korea, and has now moved on to APS 2, spread across several sites in Europe.
"We're really focused on making sure units have common systems in order to communicate in the field," said Troy Roberts, CECOM Senior Command Representative for Europe. "The 405th Army Field Support Brigade and Army Sustainment Command have been extremely supportive of our efforts."
Modernizing C5ISR systems for APS 2 became especially urgent this year in preparation for Defender 2020, scheduled to begin in April. The exercise is intended to validate the draw, use and turn-in of unit-size APS 2 equipment sets. CECOM is now at 99% equipment on hand for APS 2, including secondary items such as replacement parts. It has performed installations and repair actions on radio kits in 842 vehicles, a process that can take up to eight man-hours per vehicle.
"Outfitting these platforms is not one size fits all," said Scott Marcle, CECOM Integrated Logistics Support Center Contingency Support Branch chief. "For example, a commander's Humvee may need four radios, but the mail truck only needs one. It's a complex process, and Defender 2020 will show us where the disconnects are."
Following Defender 2020, CECOM will continue to assess C5ISR modernization at APS sites and upgrade them depending on the Army's strategic power projection needs.