The 413th Contracting Support Brigade (CSB), Fort Shafter, HI, has made history by becoming the first CSB to conduct a Joint Contracting Field Training Exercise. The Pacific Contingency Contracting Disaster Training Exercise in December 2010 was based on Operation Unified Assistance, conducted after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, and focused on providing contracting to a Joint Task Force formed to support the foreign disaster relief effort.
The exercise involved 39 U.S. Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and civilians from the 413th CSB; the 647th Contracting Squadron from Hickam Air Force Base, HI; the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Regional Contracting Office; and the 1950th Contingency Contracting Team from the Hawaii Army National Guard. The U.S. Army Expeditionary Contracting Command (ECC) sent two mentors to train the 413th Headquarters, and the 410th CSB, Fort Sam Houston TX, and 411th CSB, Seoul, Korea, sent mentors to train the joint teams that functioned as Regional Contracting Centers.
The design of the exercise reflected three goals:
- To train for the CSB’s task to deploy and establish operational contract support command and control
- To train teams to provide contingency contracting support while operating in an austere field environment
- To test communication equipment and configurations at both the brigade and team levels
The four-day exercise began with welcoming remarks from COL Mike Hoskin, 413th CSB Commander, and a briefing from MAJ Ralph Barnes, contracting officer for the 410th CSB, on contracting lessons learned during Operation Unified Response in Haiti, the military’s relief effort after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Barnes was the first Contingency Contracting Officer (CCO) to arrive in Haiti. LTC(P) Tim Strange and MAJ(P) Maria Schneider from the ECC headquarters briefed the ECC contingency contracting expectations and the Request for Forces process, which was a brigade training objective.
Relying on a Full Skill Set
Throughout the exercise, the units operated in contingency areas with little or no support available in the immediate area. CCOs were forced to rely on their gamut of skills, including writing Standard Form 44 purchase orders and manual contracts, setting up a Procurement Defense Desktop network, practicing the procedure for ratifying unauthorized commitments, and setting up and using the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) system for communication.
The team also trained on the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker to monitor contractors’ movements on the battlefield. CCOs gained hands-on experience through multiple scenarios using the Army Contracting Command Proficiency Guide for Contracting Officers.
We need to conduct this type of training in garrison to learn from our mistakes before attending a contingency.
While the CCOs trained in basic contracting tasks, the 413th CSB staff worked several tasks, including producing Operational Contracting Support fragmentary orders, developing and implementing a deployed battle rhythm, reviewing and making recommendations on actions requiring approval from the head of the contracting activity, answering requests for information from ECC mentors who simulated the ECC staff, and updating information for an ECC commanders’ update brief.
The CSB’s S-6 tested the BGAN system for operability and suitability for the brigade and teams. The system is a global satellite Internet network for electronic transmission using portable terminals, which normally are used to connect a laptop computer to broadband Internet in remote locations. Unlike other satellite Internet services that require bulky satellite dishes to connect, a BGAN terminal is about the size of a laptop and can be carried easily.
The exercise concluded with a briefing from a Pacific Command J-4 representative on Operation Unified Assistance and lessons learned from the humanitarian assistance mission.
A key lesson learned for contracting was the use of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Field Operations Guide when supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The guide contains specifications for many types of commodities purchased for humanitarian assistance missions, such as plastic sheeting for shelters, collapsible water jugs, and human remains pouches. The briefing was an ideal bookend to Barnes’ briefing on Operation Unified Response at the start of the exercise, which opened with the CCO’s perspective and ended with that of the combatant command.
During the after-action review, all participants concluded that the joint training was beneficial and should be continued, to include interagency partners such as USAID in the next exercise. The CCO’s exposure to the proficiency tasks not commonly experienced in a Garrison Regional Contracting Office was invaluable. The staff’s exposure to ECC requirements during their support operations was useful in developing the standard operating procedure for the tactical operations center.
“We need to conduct this type of training in garrison to learn from our mistakes before attending a contingency,” said U.S. Marine SSgt Erika Bonilla-Rubi. “The fact that the exercise was a joint service exercise made it even better. I was able to see where I stand (knowledge-wise) in the contracting community compared to the other services, see what other services are doing better and how we can improve, and share my knowledge and suggest ways to improve how other services conduct business.”
- CHARMAINE BOTTEX is assigned to the 413th CSB as a Contingency Plans Officer. She holds a B.S. in business administration from Columbia College and an M.B.A. in hospital management from Tourou University, and is pursuing her D.B.A. in global supply chain management at Walden University.
Some military translators are fluent in Arabic, others in software code. With the explosion of sophisticated weapons and information systems to confront persistent conflict, the Army is developing a high-tech, electronic “translator” to improve communications between systems that use different battlefield “languages.”
The solution, Semantic Mediation for Army Reasoning and Teamwork (SMART), allows systems to share more information faster and reduces the cost compared with custom translation. SMART is being fielded with an operational unit for the first time this year, streamlining Soldiers’ ability to transmit key reports in theater, officials said.
“Because the forces are expected to conduct multiple types of operations, the warfighter has a wide variety of tools that are available for use, dependent on the current task or mission,” said Ron Szymanski, one of the project’s architects. “All of those tools use different means to store and transmit information. As a result, there is a driving need to create a solution that enables all those software systems to interoperate and share relevant information.”
SMART is the brainchild of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC) Command and Control Directorate (C2D). It is one of the technologies and capabilities under development as part of the Collaborative Battlespace Reasoning and Awareness Army Technology Objective, which seeks to improve collaboration and interoperability within all levels of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR).
SMART and Flexible
Rather than forcing different systems and users to abide by a single, one-size-fits-all language, SMART is flexible. It automatically adjusts to the existing data structures of today’s mix of government, commercial, and homegrown applications, which allows interoperability without the large cost and time commitment required to bring all systems onto a single standard, said Szymanski, the C2D Chief Architect for Software and Technology.
“Warfighter feedback so far has been extremely positive and influential,” he said. “Early interaction with warfighters improved the technology design, so there are few to no changes to the user experience when SMART is introduced.”
The technology has clear potential to benefit warfighters, said 1LT Andrew Campbell of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, which experimented with SMART during a recent exercise.
“This program allows our analysts to quickly and efficiently translate incoming reports into a retrievable database,” Campbell said. “Soldiers then spend more time organizing and analyzing data and less time retyping every new report. More time spent analyzing will directly lead to better results on the battlefield.”
The end result is a significant reduction in the amount of time required to obtain, process, analyze, and transmit information.
Today, military analysts charged with disseminating certain field reports can face a laborious, time-intensive process. To transfer data manually from one system to another, they not only must copy and paste, which is subject to human error, but also extensively reformat the data to match the input requirements of the second system. By automating pieces of that translation process according to users’ specifications, SMART frees the analysts to focus on other tasks.
“What SMART does not do is remove the human from the process. There is, and should always be, a human in the loop to verify the final product,” Szymanski said. “The end result is a significant reduction in the amount of time required to obtain, process, analyze, and transmit information.”
A Scalable System
Lab tests have shown that unlike current data translation methods, SMART is extremely scalable to existing and future systems.
“SMART brings the potential to facilitate transparent coalition interoperability between native systems without requiring modifications to those systems,” said Marvin Goldin, the project’s technical lead. “The main problem is that there are interoperability shortfalls across functional boundaries, services, and nations. It is the intent to use the power of SMART to mitigate and possibly eliminate these shortfalls.”
The ability of the SMART architecture to support multiple domains will be demonstrated through an upcoming exercise that aims to provide a clearer picture of the airspace to joint forces and coalition nations, Goldin said.
The exercise will show how SMART can unite information from different systems to enhance collaboration, deconfliction, and integration, officials said.
“SMART can be applied to the information needs of multiple communities, from airspace deconfliction to the military medical community,” said Michael Anthony, Chief of the Mission Command Division for CERDEC C2D. “The proliferation of software tools across the military illustrates the need for cost-effective interoperability solutions.”
While the lack of interconnected and interoperable systems made translation a pressing need, the CERDEC team’s solution was also influenced by a research paper published by the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute. The 2006 report, titled Ultra-Large-Scale Systems: The Software Challenge of the Future (http://www.sei.cmu.edu/library/assets/ULS_Book20062.pdf), predicted that as DOD vigorously pursues information dominance, “systems will necessarily be decentralized in a variety of ways, developed and used by a wide variety of stakeholders with conflicting needs, evolving continuously, and constructed from heterogeneous parts.”
The report’s conclusions reinforced the notion that “one size does not fit all,” Szymanski said. “We should embrace and move to standards, but will probably never get there. The paper states that ‘ULS [Ultra-Large Scale] systems will place unprecedented demands on software acquisition, production, deployment, management, documentation, usage, and evolution practices.’ SMART is an attempt at minimizing the cost of those demands.”
The technology is scheduled to transition to Product Director Common Software (PD CS) early in 2011. PD CS is assigned to Project Manager Battle Command, part of the Army’s Program Executive Office Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T).
- CLAIRE HEININGER works for Symbolic Systems Inc. as a staff writer supporting the PEO C3T MilTech Solutions Office. She holds a B.A. in American studies with a minor in journalism, ethics, and democracy from the University of Notre Dame.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the number of Soldiers in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) has increased by approximately 1,000. At the same time, the AH/MH-6M Little Bird, MH-47G Chinook, and MH-60M Black Hawk were or are being fielded. Simultaneously, the 160th is running its own schoolhouse. These multiple activities, all while the Army has been at war, have stressed the regiment—stress that the new U.S. Army Special Operations Command-Provisional (ARSOAC) hopes to alleviate.
ARSOAC was officially activated March 25. Its Commanding General is BG Kevin W. Mangum, former Deputy Commanding General-Center, U.S. Division-Center.
ARSOAC will manage the complex enterprise of aviation units and operations, institutional training, system integration and acquisition, and maintenance and sustainment functions, Mangum said. It will also provide oversight to ensure standardization and safety of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial systems.
Mangum spoke about the mission, vision, and functions of the new command at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Institute of Land Warfare’s Army Aviation Symposium and Exposition Jan. 13, 2011, at National Harbor, MD.
ARSOAC is part of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), overseen by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and has a dual role in Army special operations. It mans, trains, equips, and resources units to provide worldwide aviation support to Special Operations Forces (SOF) and serves as the USASOC Aviation Staff proponent, said Mangum.
As we build this headquarters, let’s get it right. Let’s not get it fast. The goal is to come out of the starting box with the right goals, missions, and functions.
“Taking the functions off the 160th—their own training battalion, their acquisition cell, and their programming—will free that commander to have a more relevant role for the battlefield. That is our goal and our hope,” he said.
Mangum said ARSOAC is “going to deal with all things aviation.” It will provide USASOC with a command and staff capability for USASOC aviation and will facilitate collaboration with the Army and USSOCOM on broader aviation issues.
“It’s a resourcing headquarters with a hiring role, both as a component command within USASOC as well as the staff proponent for aviation within USASOC,” he said. “Across the USASOC and aviation enterprise, we have a little bit of everything. We have fixed-wing, rotary-wing … We will be the single portal of entry for those issues for the entire aviation piece.”
ARSOAC is a provisional command for about a year, giving the command staff time to establish the conditions and resources for success. “As we build this headquarters, let’s get it right. Let’s not get it fast,” said Mangum. The goal is to “come out of the starting box with the right goals, missions, and functions.”
In the Army Force Generation cycle, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) is divided into three rotations: maintenance, training, and modernization. These are three distinct pieces that compete with one another, Mangum said.
Army aviation and USASOC are collaborative, functionally relying on each other. Mangum said that more than half of the Combat Aviation Brigade effort supports SOF. Meanwhile, SOF relies on Army aviation to provide expert Soldiers to grow and sustain Army aviation and to generate combat power.
MG Anthony G. Crutchfield, Chief of the Army Aviation Branch and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Fort Rucker, AL, asked Mangum to join the Army Aviation Enterprise Executive Council. “It is an opportunity to collaborate, be transparent, and communicate better what our requirements are to the Army and also share with the Army what we’re doing and learn from Army aviation what it’s doing,” Mangum said. The goal is to have greater collaboration with the Army aviation enterprise, to have mutual support to achieve capabilities and readiness at best value.
Mangum’s presentation is available at http://www.crprogroup.com/2011%20AVIATION%20PRESENTATIONS/Thurs/PM/BG%20Kevin%20Mangum.pdf.
- KELLYN D. RITTER provides contract support to the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center through BRTRC Strategy and Communications Group. She holds a B.A. in English from Dickinson College.
An invention developed at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, and now being shipped to Afghanistan will make ammunition stowage safer and more effective for Soldiers onboard combat vehicles. The Modular Ammunition Restraint System, or more simply MARS, was created and a prototype developed about a year ago. Since then, more than 700 have been fielded to combat zones.
MARS’ inventors are Picatinny packaging engineers Mike Ivankoe, with 31 years of service at the arsenal, Peggy Wilson, with seven years at the arsenal, and former Picatinny employee LTC Glenn Dean, who has since relocated to Warren, MI.
As members of the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center, Ivankoe, Wilson, and Dean responded to an urgent request from Soldiers for a safer way to store ammunition containers on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.
For years, Soldiers have been relying on their own makeshift methods (such as straps, bungee cords, or duct tape) to secure ammunition containers inside MRAPs. Virtually every cubic inch within an MRAP is occupied with mission-essential equipment, making ammunition stowage a challenge.
The makeshift methods posed several problems. Once Soldiers cut the straps or removed the bungee cords, it was difficult—and sometimes impossible—to re-secure the ammunition, especially with the rapid pace of a combat mission. In the event of a roadside bomb or an improvised explosive device, loose ammunition containers could trigger a disaster.
MARS is a custom-engineered bag, similar to a camera bag or backpack, that holds standard metal ammunition containers. Inside is a steel L-shaped bracket that supports the weight of a full ammunition box (about 50 pounds) and provides a strong surface for mounting the bag to the system’s custom interface rail. The adjustable hook-and-loop closures and specially designed buckle allow Soldiers to tailor MARS for smaller ammunition containers.
A Product of Partnership
MARS was made possible through partnership with Joint Project Office (JPO) MRAP, which provided funding and production support. The JPO arranged for General Dynamics Land Systems, the original manufacturer of the RG-31 MRAP, to study optimal placement of MARS, including the repositioning of some equipment.
General Dynamics Land Systems also designed the interface rail specific to the RG-31. With these modifications, the team incorporated the MARS interface rail, which holds three MARS, into the current production of RG-31 vehicles.
Further updates include the development of a jumbo-size MARS that can hold larger ammunition containers, including those used to store 40mm grenades. The team is constantly looking for ways to expand, retrofit, and integrate the invention to maximize Soldier benefit.
“MARS is a perfect example of how teamwork, motivation, and a drive to achieve results can bring a much-needed technology to our Soldiers in record-breaking time,” Ivankoe said. The Army estimates that several thousand MARS will be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan within the next year.
- Article courtesy of the Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs Office.
The Army is speeding up delivery of some of its newer unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), such as the Gray Eagle, and expanding the size and range of its overall fleet to include a family of small UAS and Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) UAS, service officials said.
“We’re going to accelerate Gray Eagle yet again,” said Tim Owings, Deputy Project Manager (PM) UAS. “We’re accelerating from two systems per year to three systems per year, which will result in 17 systems being procured by FY14.”
A Defense Acquisition Board slated for this month is expected to confirm the addition of two more Low-Rate Initial Production Gray Eagle systems, each consisting of 12 air vehicles, five ground control stations, and five additional attrition vehicles, Owings said.
Quick Reaction Capabilities
The Army has already deployed two Quick Reaction Capabilities (QRCs) of the Gray Eagle, a 28-foot-long surveillance aircraft with a 56-foot wingspan that is able to beam images from up to 29,000 feet for more than 24 hours at a time. One QRC is flying with Soldiers in Iraq and another with U.S. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan, Owings said.
The QRC Gray Eagle aircraft are equipped with a laser designator, signals intelligence (SIGINT) capability, and an electro-optical infrared camera designed to survey the ground below, track enemy movements, and hone in on targets. They are also equipped to carry HELLFIRE missiles.
“We just completed the weaponization of QRC 1 in Iraq,” Owings said. “We now have flown flights in Iraq with the full weapons suite. They will have to go through a safety certification process on a firing range before they are allowed to go live.”
The QRC concept is designed to bring needed technologies to the battlefield in advance of a formal Program of Record, to sharpen requirements and get desired capability in Soldiers’ hands sooner.
The Gray Eagle program will also go through a configuration change to allow the Army to divide the systems into three platoon-size elements, Owings said. This will allow the Army to keep some aircraft in CONUS for training purposes while keeping most of the systems forward-positioned in theater.
PM UAS, under Program Executive Office Aviation, is also planning a QRC for the A160 Hummingbird VTOL UAS, a 35-foot-long, helicopter-like unmanned system able to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions and move cargo for more than 20 hours at altitudes of up to 30,000 feet.
“We are currently outfitting an A160 with a wide-area surveillance payload and a SIGINT package,” Owings said. “We intend to deploy a single A160 to Afghanistan later this year with two additional air vehicles now undergoing final integration for fielding in FY12. The big advantage with the A160 is, you get near fixed-wing endurance in a vertical-lift platform. That is something we have not seen before.”
We’re accelerating from two systems per year to three systems per year, which will result in 17 systems being procured by FY14.
The first A160 aircraft was provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The U.S. Special Operations Command is providing the next two follow-on aircraft, Owings said.
The Army is also developing a formal requirement for a VTOL UAS designed to work in tandem with the A160 QRC, a process that will result in a formal competition and selection of a new capability, said COL Rob Sova, Capability Manager for UAS, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
“We are going to be directed to do a VTOL requirements document,” Sova said. “A VTOL capabilities development document is the phase prior to the final document. We plan on doing a quick turn. We’ll have that document done in the first half of the calendar year.”
The A160 QRC will guide the requirements process. Ultimately, however, the Army’s formal VTOL program may or may not involve the A160, Owings and Sova indicated.
“Even if we wind up picking something different, we are going to learn a tremendous amount with the QRC we are doing with the A160,” Owings said. “When you get to the field, you get a chance to vet things out and learn a lot on the materiel side.”
A Family of Small UAS
The Army is also working on requirements for a family of small UAS, a process aided by the Proof of Principle deployment of several small UAS including the Raven, Wasp, and Puma.
The big advantage with the A160 is, you get near fixed-wing endurance in a vertical-lift platform. That is something we have not seen before.
Much like a QRC, the Proof of Principle for the small UAS is designed to get capability in Soldiers’ hands and to sharpen the requirements needed for the formal Program of Record.
“The requirements document is done. It is called the Rucksack Portable UAS requirements document. It needs to be amended because we got an increase in demand for the numbers, so we are working on the total numbers,” said Sova.
The Wasp Micro Air Vehicle is a 1.25-foot, 1-pound hand-held UAS able to beam images back to a ground controller from ranges up to 5 kilometers. The Wasp can fly for up to 45 minutes.
The Puma is a slightly larger UAS with a gimbaled camera. It can fly for 90 minutes. The Puma weighs 13 pounds, is 4.6 feet long with a wingspan of 9.2 feet, and can fly up to 500 feet.
The Raven, a 4-pound, 4-foot-long UAS, has been used in theater to provide security for convoys and Forward Operating Bases, Sova said.
- KRIS OSBORN is is a Highly Qualified Expert for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Office of Strategic Communications. He holds a B.A. in English and political science from Kenyon College and an M.A. in comparative literature from Columbia University.
The 730th Transportation Company of the 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserve (USAR), is the first unit to be equipped with the new Palletized Load System (PLS)-A1 truck, solidifying a significant shift in the distribution and allocation of equipment to Soldiers.
The 730th Transportation Company, one of the newest USAR units, is receiving the Army’s newest trucks. Since September 2010, the Soldiers have trained for the 60 new trucks, said COL John Smith, Chief of Staff of the 311th Expeditionary Support Command. In November, Product Manager Heavy Tactical Vehicles (PM HTV), under the leadership of Project Manager Tactical Vehicles, Program Executive Office Combat Support and Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS), obtained Full Materiel Release approval for the PLS-A1.
In a Feb. 4 ceremony, PEO CS&CSS formally recognized the new transportation company. “This is the second first unit equipped ceremony I’ve been privileged to attend, and it’s the second one for the Army Reserve,” said LTC Paul Shuler, PM HTV. “The PLS-A1 is the best we have.”
During the ceremony, COL David Bassett, Project Manager Tactical Vehicles, explained that the PLS-A1 is designed with a fully scalable and integrated cab armor protection package, meaning the vehicle comes off the production line equipped with “A-Kit” armor components and built-in mounting provisions for the “B-Kit.” The B-Kit can be installed on the vehicle, as missions dictate, to provide maximum 360-degree protection for the crew in a combat environment.
“These trucks are designed to get you there, get you back, and get you home safely,” said Bassett. “I’m gratified we can put equipment in the hands of Soldiers.”
Bassett noted that this second fielding of new equipment to a USAR unit recognizes the unique contribution that citizen Soldiers make to the Nation’s defense.
The PLS-A1 fielding will allow the Army to replace many of the older, aging PLS-series trucks currently in use. “What’s occurring here today represents much more than new trucks,” said Smith. “It represents our ability to supply and support the fighting force.”
Designed and manufactured by Oshkosh Defense Corp., the PLS-A1 incorporates a 600-horsepower Caterpillar C-15 engine and an Allison 4500 six-speed transmission, which meets on-road U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements, and an independent steel spring front suspension system. The truck also features improved heating and air conditioning, an electrical system capable of providing future support to diagnostic and prognostic maintenance systems, and an anti-lock brake system with traction control.
Many units can put a battalion into combat. The question becomes, how do you resupply? And the answer is a robust and versatile logistics system.
Mike Ivy, Vice President and General Manager of Army Programs for Oshkosh Defense, was on-site to deliver a commemorative plaque to the unit. “It’s an honor to see the first PLS-A1 fielded to the 730th Transportation Company,” said Ivy. “The PLS has become the backbone of the Army’s distribution and resupply system since it entered Army service in 1993. The PLS-A1 delivers performance and protection improvements that are important to America’s Soldiers, and we’re proud to provide it.”
“Many units can put a battalion into combat,” Smith said. “The question becomes, how do you resupply? And the answer is a robust and versatile logistics system.” This is where the Army Reserve comes in, Smith explained—to provide trained and ready Soldiers able to deploy at a fraction of the cost.
The PLS-A1 supports the Army’s need for local and long-distance line-haul supply operations. The first configuration, M1074A1, is equipped with a Material Handling Crane and is used primarily to support ammunition handling at local holding areas and transfer points. The M1075A1, which does not feature a crane, is used chiefly for long-distance line-haul missions. Both configurations feature the same payload and towing capacity.
- MAJ COREY SCHULTZ is a Media Officer for the Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve Public Affairs Office, specializing in media relations, crisis reaction, and planning. She holds a B.A. in English with a focus on literature and classical studies from Kalamazoo College.
- ASHLEY JOHN is a Strategic Communications Specialist for PEO CS&CSS. She holds a B.A. in marketing from Michigan State University.