FORT BENNING, Ga. – Despite COVID-19 impacts to new equipment training and integration schedules, Army program management offices, working with end-user units, are employing innovative tactics to meet mission priorities.
The Security Force Assistance Command (SFAC) had already scheduled a comprehensive communications capability vehicle integration event at Fort Benning for three of its Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. With mission-critical training at risk, the SFAC obtained special consideration from U.S. Forces Command to move ahead with the event, which began with the SFAC’s pre-determined directive on which units, and which vehicles, would move to the front of the integration line based on training needs for near-term mobilizations and available resources.
SFABs are comprised of highly trained Soldiers who are part of a train, assist and advise strategy to assist with operations in hot spots around the world.
“We are following a strict sequencing process, which some are affectionately calling ‘the racetrack,’ to ensure we tackle the appropriate subset of vehicles identified by the SFAC as priority upgrades, ” said David O’Conner, Synchronized Fielding lead, Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T).
O’Conner and the vehicle integration team, comprised of multiple Army product organizations, are upgrading power, mission command and tactical radio equipment for the 1st, 2nd and 54th SFABs’ M1151 High Mobility Multi-purposed Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs). As these SFABs pass on certain pieces of equipment to others based on mission priorities, vehicle integration events help to level-set equipment across the entire SFAB fleet, he said.
The event is also providing hands-on experience for some 54th SFAB Soldiers who were activated for the event to ensure they met critical advisor-specific training criteria prior to their mobilizations.
“The 54th SFAB Soldiers, which are the only SFAB National Guard unit, are with us every day providing end-to-end support for all three phases,” O’Conner said. “This was no small feat; they pulled equipment from across their units in Ohio, Illinois, Texas, Florida and Georgia to ensure that all the required equipment landed here at Fort Benning.”
In the first phase of the vehicle integration process, the team from Product Director Light Tactical Vehicles (PD LTV), under Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support, is increasing the power capabilities to ensure the vehicles can support the upgraded communications equipment. PD LTV then transitions the vehicle to PEO C3T’s Project Manager Mission Command (PM MC) team to first integrate radio racks, and then complete the fielding of Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P) software onto the Mounted Family of Computer Systems (MFoCS) hardware.
“The JBC-P and MFoCS solution will provide the SFABs with a flexible, friendly force situational awareness tracking solution that can either be mounted in their vehicles or used in a dismounted situation using the detachable tablet,” said Todd Wyngaard, Materiel Fielding branch chief for PM MC.
For the final phase, PEO C3T’s Project Manager Tactical Radios (PM TR) is integrating each SFAB vehicle with new Generation 2 HMS Manpack radios, the newest 2-Channel Leader Radios, and the latest high frequency radios. This suite of radios provides the SFAB vehicles with the latest waveforms and the ability to pass voice and data, and also feed position location information to a common operating picture.
"This is where having a consolidated site to install equipment, and a robust plan to meet unit priorities, has allowed us to excel," said Mike Mercurio, branch chief for Materiel Fielding, Training, Vehicle Integration and Field Support, PM TR. "For example, we installed a specified number of radios on the 2nd SFAB vehicles, shifted over to the 54th SFAB vehicles, and then we refocused our efforts back to the 2nd SFAB to integrate vehicles that were not designated for an immediate exercise."
The team will continue to orchestrate this process over the next several months to ensure that one phase does not negatively impact the next, Mercurio said.
SFABs will take possession of the newly integrated vehicles to use for their impending missions in the early fall.
By systematically upgrading communications capabilities based on mission need, the SFABs will retain the modern communications equipment critical to their highly specialized and ever-expanding security roles across the globe.
“This is not a one-off event,” O’Conner said. “For these exceptional Soldiers, modernization never ends.”
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.