The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command is training air defense Soldiers on a software tool to solve a problem that has plagued their career field for decades — accuracy in readiness reporting data.
Missile maintenance Soldiers are responsible for reporting the readiness of complex weapons systems monthly. If one component of a system is down, then the entire weapons system is considered down, because they are interdependent. For decades the status of each of those components was tracked separately and calculated manually. It was a process riddled with human error.
The new software tool is an architecture built into the Army’s existing system of record for maintenance management, creating a system of systems. The serial numbers of each component part are tracked, and the system of systems tool can provide accurate, real-time readiness data within minutes.
The idea for system of systems came from Chief Warrant Officer 5 Araceli Rial during her time serving as the AMCOM Missile Maintenance Officer.
Rial said when she became a system maintenance manager in 2005, she could not believe the process was not automated. When she arrived at AMCOM more than a decade later, she met with then AMCOM Commander, Maj. Gen. Todd Royar, to discuss her solution to the problem.
Rial worked with Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems to build the software tool into the existing technology. PEO EIS is the agency responsible for managing and providing the information technology network and business systems for the Army.
They manage the Global Combat Support System – Army, which is the program air defense Soldiers were already using to track readiness, but Rial said it wasn’t going deep enough. She noticed GCSS-Army was only going down to the end-product item, when it would be more beneficial to go down to the component level.
She said, “For instance, using a Patriot missile system as an example, it has multiple major end items that create the readiness rate for a Patriot Battery. Some of the major components include a radar, several launchers, and an electric power plant. Well, the electric powerplant is its own system — it has a truck, and it carries two generators. The launcher has a truck, a platform and a generator. The radar may function just fine, but it can’t operate without the electric powerplant; the launcher may work great, but it can’t launch without the radar. All of the pieces are interdependent and determine the overall Patriot missile system readiness.”
During her four years at AMCOM Rial was able to get the system of systems tool created and fielded to an air defense unit for testing. However, since she is still an active-duty Soldier, she had to leave her position before it was fully implemented. Prior to her departure, Rial met with the Soldier who would replace her at AMCOM.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Hudson was assigned to the 11th ADA Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas, where system of systems was being fielded and tested earlier this year. He had orders to AMCOM, so he met with Rial during the testing phase.
“I was able to take part in the pilot program with Chief Rial,” he said. “During the weeks leading up to the fielding, she gave me all of the requisite training needed to be a trainer and conduct the fielding. It was nice because it gave me insight into the issues and what was going on behind the scenes, so I could see what needed to be fixed and what worked well.”
Hudson officially arrived at AMCOM in May and formally took over the system of systems effort in June; he and Rial overlapped approximately a month before she moved to Germany. In July Hudson and Royar received approval to field system of systems to all air defense units in the Army from the Defense Acquisition Regulatory Council.
Earlier this month Hudson fielded the tool to nearly 100 ADA Soldiers at Fort Bliss, a 4-day process of classroom instruction, one-on-one assistance and office visits. He will continue traveling to ADA units for the next year to ensure every ADA Soldier in the Army receives the same information.
Prior to teaching the class, Hudson meets with each property book office to ensure all items are recorded correctly, which involves looking at every serial number on every end item. He said while the property verifying is tedious and exhausting, the classroom portion makes it all worth it.
“The most exciting part of it for me is the people — seeing the Soldiers and explaining to them that this process will make their lives easier. In this last group of Soldiers I trained, their faces changed when I said, ‘you’re not going to have to do this way anymore, you only have to do this ….’ That brings joy to me — seeing that their lives are going to actually be easier.”
While the people are the best part for Hudson, he said the biggest benefit to the Army is the truth in reporting. The ADA readiness numbers are much lower now, but he said the accuracy and confidence in those numbers is much higher.
“Historically, Patriot has been at 90% or above for a long time,” he said. “After 1-43 fielded system of systems for 120 days, we are getting transparency and truth in reporting. It’s been about 70% each month since it was implemented. It’s also showing their actual down time now, which is the amount of time the equipment is unusable because we are waiting on a part in order to fix it.”
System of systems also provides data analytics. Hudson said the analytics are particularly helpful for calculating the average time between equipment failures to determine trends and outcomes.
“If a part fails on the first of November and it goes out again on the first of January, I can calculate how long that part was in that system and then go back and see how often it was operated and during what conditions; what type of weather was it operated in, etc., then I can gauge what the average time of failure is for that part. So, if the part only worked 1,000 hours, I should expect the next one to work a similar amount of time.”
Hudson expects to be the AMCOM Missile Maintenance Officer for three years. During that time, he will field system of systems to every ADA unit across the Army, as well as continue to modify the user manual built into the tool, based on feedback from the classes.
Both Hudson and Rial said being assigned to AMCOM is beneficial because readiness reporting was an issue for both Soldiers throughout their individual careers, and now they are in a position to effect change.
“I’m grateful that a problem [that] has been around for so long is finally getting addressed,” Rial said. “I remember the hours that it took, the heartache of comparing reports and trying to get [everything] together and matched. I’m really just grateful and proud of what the team has collectively put together to address this issue.”