Soldiers training on Mission Command systems in garrison
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Sept. 17, 2012) -- Practice makes perfect. This adage is certainly true for the perishable skills of Soldiers who control combat operations in tactical command posts around the world. In order to ensure those mission command skills remain sharp, the U.S. Army Forces Command, or FORSCOM, is setting up their tactical Mission Command computer systems on home station networks.

Termed Installation as a Docking Station, or IADS, this initiative is allowing pre-deployed Soldiers the opportunity to maneuver IT assets around other networks or physical locations, resulting in more opportunities to improve their readiness levels and skill proficiencies before they deploy.

"The days of training on our tactical systems only in the field every so often are over," said Maj. Darien Pitts, Information Assurance Manager, 1st Armored Division. "Providing our staff opportunities to operate in the garrison environment as if in tactical environments gives us time to develop synergy, procedures, and tactics, making a more ready force."

FORSCOM has teamed with Project Manager Mission Command, or PM MC, assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command Control Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T, to realize this objective. PM MC develops, deploys and sustains integrated Mission Command software capabilities to the Army and Joint forces.

"Soldiers are usually assigned duties using Mission Command systems for a brief time in a given career," said Lt. Col. Brian Lyttle, Product Manager, Strategic Mission Command, known as PdM SMC, which is under PM MC. "The units would operate systems during training events as part of the Army Force Generation, or ARFORGEN, cycle, but the systems weren't typically employed in day-to-day use at their home station."

This results in Soldiers spending more time patching systems or re-training on PM MC systems, said Lyttle.

To prepare for IADS and resolve known training, technical, and information assurance, or IA, issues at home station, FORSCOM led a working group with representatives from Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM, Army Chief Information Officer, known as CIO/G6, Installation Management Command, Signal Center of Excellence and PEO C3T earlier this year.

PM MC's initial task has been to ensure compliance with IA regulations, and has distributed processes that standardize the requirements and response times to vulnerability issues. Retaining uninterrupted operations is crucial to the units during this transition.

"We are working with Mission Command stakeholders to reduce the impact on units as we implement IA measures," said Lyttle. "PM MC provides these capabilities to units across the world, but commanders, their units and G/S-6s still hold final responsibility for network security and operations."

In April, Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM, delivered an order to all Network Enterprise Centers, or NECs, to assist units in connecting two Mission Command systems, Battle Command Common Services, or BCCS, and Command Post of the Future, also knowns as CPOF, to their home stations. These two systems form the core capabilities for more than 2,400 of the Army Active, Guard, and Reserve components, and other Mission Command systems will follow.

With IA processes in place, PM MC engineers are now instructing home station units how to establish operation centers that mimic their deployable command post, resulting in positive feedback from the Combined Training Centers, one of which is at Fort Bliss, Texas.

"The implementation of Installation as a Docking Station at Fort Bliss presents multiple opportunities for Signaleers to stay current on their respective skill sets, to include network operations, or NETOPS, monitoring, information assurance, and server and policy construction," said Maj. Pitts "As units stay in constant preparation for deployments and field exercises, it is critical for us to stay competent and capable on these skills and take opportunities to refine them as well."

FORSCOM, working with 7th Signal Command, is tracking units' connection status and assisting as necessary in the connection process.

"Ultimately, IADS is envisioned to provide additional training flexibility, enabled by the ability to easily relocate Mission Command servers and clients to different locations on an installation without requiring significant reconfiguration or satellite connectivity, " said David Hagler, Automation team lead, FORSCOM G-6.

Additional units are requesting connections to their home stations as soon as possible.

"Soon, given the commander's priority to ensure their staffs are fully trained and ready to deploy at any moment, more Soldiers will be coming to work and jumping onto the Mission Command systems during their day-to-day operations," said Lyttle.

Related Links:

Program Executive Office for Command Control Communications-Tactical

Project Manager Mission Command

'Installation as docking station' links home front to battlefield technologies

NETCOM Science and Technology News

U.S. Army Forces Command - FORSCOM