As the link between Combatant Commands and Army Service Component Commands around the world and the Army’s top subject matter experts in science and technology, Field Assistance in Science and Technology Advisors play a key role in expediting technology solutions for Warfighters and facilitating CCDC’s technologies and systems into experiments. FAST Advisors, which are part of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Forward Element Centers, ensure Warfighters have access to the world’s best technologies.
To prepare new FAST Advisors and other CFEC personnel for their roles, the CCDC Global Technology Office conducts Orientation and Reach-Back Training, or ORBT, twice each year. The spring 2020 ORBT was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the fall ORBT was held virtually October 19-29, 2020.
“ORBT not only provides CFECs, to include FAST Advisors, a thorough understanding of the CCDC enterprise, but their relationships with people around the Army are leveraged by the CCDC enterprise to help insert innovative solutions into experiments to solve Soldiers’ operational issues. The ORBT program is essential to preparing CFEC personnel for this role,” said Collier Slade, CCDC GTO director.
Military and civilian CFEC personnel, including FAST Advisors, begin their roles with knowledge in different fields, but the ORBT exposes them to the CCDC enterprise and instructs them about areas of research they may not be familiar with. Most importantly, it provides an opportunity to build up their “rolodex” to support their reach back into the CCDC network of S&T experts. ORBT is now in its 17th year, and more than 25 teams supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and more than 35 teams supporting Operation Enduring Freedom have completed the training.
"ORBT provides an opportunity for members of the CFECs to broaden our network and deepen our scientific understanding of CCDC programs so we can target our tech search activities and build more meaningful collaborations with international partners. On the Basic and Applied Research team at CCDC Atlantic, I listen to the presentations to understand CCDC programs directions and needs. We can use this to find focused academic research collaborations that will advance the science these programs need to be successful,” said Hollie Pietsch, engineer for technology scouting at CFEC-Atlantic.
CFEC personnel are stationed across the globe with International Technology Centers in Canada, Brazil, Chile, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Israel, Japan, Singapore, and Australia. The CFEC FAST Advisors serve on CCMD or ASCC staffs at: Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Fort Shafter, Hawaii; Wiesbaden, Germany; Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina; Vicenza, Italy; Seoul, Korea; Fort Richardson, Alaska; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Huntsville, Alabama; Grafenwoehr, Germany; Tampa, Florida; and MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
"ORBT isn't just an orientation of the many different CCDC organizations and partners, but it's also an opportunity for subject matter experts to present information on the latest Army technology, which I think is significantly helpful, because both S&T and acquisition professionals need the situational awareness on what's out there to effectively and confidently do their jobs,” said Capt. (P) Chummie Recel, CFEC-Pacific, ITC Northeast Asia director.
ORBT provides the necessary information CFEC staffs need to support foreign partners, CCMDs and ASCCs in their particular geographical areas. A key role of a FAST Advisor is to identify limitations and current needs for operational units and pursue rapid solutions. During training exercises, FAST Advisors see firsthand issues that Soldiers may experience with equipment and technology in the field. They use this information to query program management offices, subject matter experts at CCDC, and industry partners through Requests for Information to expedite potential solutions through the CCDC GTO. FAST Advisors also submit RFIs in response to issues the CCMDs and ASCCs identify. For example, the GTO received approximately 100 RFIs from FAST Advisors during FY20 in response to needs Soldiers and Commanders identified.
In addition to identifying unit needs and pursuing rapid solutions, the CFEC staff advises commanders and command groups at their individual locations about research initiatives, technology developments, and inserting CCDC’s latest technologies into experiments.
“I've had the privilege of either briefing or attending every ORBT class since 2009, and assisting with the transition of the program from an OEF/OIF combat support focus to a more global perspective. It has been impressive to see how well the DEVCOM labs and centers have adapted to the virtual format, keeping our attendees up to date on the latest technologies CCDC has to offer. ARL even managed a live microbiology lab tour for our group. Everyone really came together under unusual circumstances to make this a valuable training experience for our global CCDC representatives, “said Gerald Manley, FAST lead and CCDC Americas region desk officer.
The ten-day virtual ORBT, which was held via Microsoft Teams, began with opening remarks from CCDC Deputy Commanding General, Brig. Gen. James Bienlien, followed by an overview of CCDC, then information from each CCDC Center and the Army Research Laboratory. Quick Reaction Coordinators and International Points of Contact, which are part of the Global Enterprise, presented updates on research efforts that support RFIs, an overview of current and completed RFIs, and relevant international efforts. At the end of each day, participants complete a questionnaire; the information will be used for lessons learned and ways to improve future ORBTs.
"The ORBT has been nothing short of essential. Vital to the role of a FAST is not only understanding the requirements and capability gaps of your supported command, but also the capabilities and technological potential within the CCDC Centers and the S&T enterprise. ORBT provides excellent overviews of the competencies of each center along with valuable project updates from the engineers leading the efforts. Their passion for their profession comes through in their presentations and provides FAST officers the ability to translate that superior technology into operational benefits for our supported command. ORBT has generated at least five new opportunities I plan to address to US Army South that will help them operationally in the future,” said Maj. Ian Welch, CFEC-Americas, FAST Advisor to ARSOUTH.
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The CCDC Global Enterprise’s mission is to ensure U.S. Warfighters have access to the world’s best technologies.