By Monica K. GuthrieJanuary 24, 2020
FORT BLISS, Texas -- Week two of the Field Artillery Autonomous Resupply Cohort continued with a day of classroom discussion. After spending the previous day at Dona Ana Range Complex talking with Soldiers and seeing pallets of ammunition, the six companies filed into a classroom at the Division Artillery headquarters building, Jan. 22, to talk to Soldiers from the Division Artillery.
"Yesterday was about observing the current state of field operations, today provides an opportunity for the companies to ask questions and interact with the end users," said Alexis Zumwalt, Army Applications Lab Cohort lead. "The goal is for them to develop a capability which is useful to Soldiers in the field. Today's setting provides them an opportunity to get clarification on what would be most helpful."
The day began with Maj. Chris Isch, assistant operations officer with Long Range Precision Fires, giving a short presentation on what information the companies already know. From there, questions were asked of the Soldiers - subject matter experts from the Division Artillery - questions like: What do you think the slowest point of contention is when you are receiving ammo? What things could be augmented the most? Who is tracking the ammunition?
For Maj. Benjamin Rhoads, Division Artillery plans officer, the opportunity allowed him to share his experience and showed him that not only is the Army working to improve artillery, but so are civilian organizations.
"The biggest thing that I've identified is there's so many across the United States that are coming together, and I like the fact that the Army is leveraging it's civilian-military relationships in order to find the best solution, versus developers creating things behind closed doors," said Rhoads. "They are taking the lessons learned from the subject matter experts who have done it for years and utilizing the smartest people across the country to find the best solution."
The constant question-and-answer session filled the majority of two hours before they broke into small groups. Each group discussed focus areas including: Navigating the battlefield, inventory management, and Manipulation configuration.
Following lunch, the group went to the Fort Bliss simulation center, where they were able to touch what they saw the day before. Inside the center was a paladin simulator used for trainees that safely allows users to go through the actions of loading "ammunition," traversing the tube and "get a feel" for what it is the cohort is trying to improve.
"It's encouraging to see it's not just the (Soldiers) trying to find it out all on our own," said Capt. David Williams, fires control officer for Division Artillery. "It's a marriage between the two, to find a solution that's workable but also forward thinking. It leverages technology, robotics, artificial intelligence - we are seeking the capabilities needed in three, four, five years, to match what our potential adversaries could put against us."
The Field Artillery Autonomous Resupply Cohort program, includes six companies participating in a 12-week program with the purpose of helping the Army find a solution to resupply its field artillery units more efficiently. The first week of the cohort took place the week of Jan. 13 in Austin, Texas, where they received an introductory brief before traveling to Fort Bliss, Texas. The six companies participating in the program are Actuate, Apptronik, Carnegie Robotics, Hivemapper, Neya Systems, and Pratt&Miller.