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March 2011

Remote Robotic System to Help Medics Assess Injured Soldiers

By | Acquisition, Science and Technology | No Comments

Barb Ruppert

With a death rate for U.S. Army medics substantially higher than that of regular infantry members, the Army needed a solution to ensure that medics could assess an injured Soldier without leaving cover.

A robotic system that could enable medics to determine an injured Soldier’s status remotely could save many lives—including not only the medic’s, but the life of the Soldier whose injury may require special transport techniques or who must be treated immediately to prevent death on the battlefield.

For the past three years, scientists at PERL Research, Huntsville, AL, have been developing such a system in conjunction with the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC). Research has focused on robotic stand-off thermal imaging sensors for vital signs and hemorrhage. The team displayed the technology at the 27th Army Science Conference in November 2010.

“We are developing a revolutionary technology to assess an injured Soldier remotely without having to actually touch him or her,” said Paul Cox, PERL Research Senior Scientist. “This sensing technology will be integrated onto a robot, thereby allowing the medic to stay behind cover in situations when the area is not secured or there are possibly explosive devices. There are currently no other technologies that can perform this type of remote, non-contact patient assessment.”

HOW IT WORKS
The automated remote triage system integrates intelligent software and sensors to assist in a medic’s remote assessment. The system uses a thermographic (temperature-sensing) camera to measure the wounded Soldier’s heart rate, respiration rate, and skin temperature. Also included are a spinal injury sensor and a hand-held triage computer to determine severity of injury based on the person’s vital signs. The system integrates the medic’s assessment of the situation (via video monitoring and two-way audio interaction) with the automated processing of the sensor data to determine the injured Soldier’s status.

According to Cox, the system could be used in the field less than two years from now for standard triage parameters such as breathing, circulation, exposure, and injury severity. “More research is needed for more detailed patient assessment such as detecting internal hemorrhaging,” he added.

Internal bleeding is the leading cause of death on the battlefield and is very difficult to detect, especially in the early stages. PERL has completed initial testing with Dr. William Cooke of the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Education and Human Development to begin correlating data from its thermographic camera with stroke volume, the amount of blood pumped with each heartbeat. Stroke volume is a strong indicator of hemorrhage but cannot be measured in the field practically using current devices.

Cooke simulates battlefield blood loss in a laboratory setting by incorporating a negative pressure chamber, similar to that used to study astronauts, which tricks the heart and brain into thinking the body is bleeding.

“Our preliminary laboratory results are very exciting,” Cooke said. “Regardless of whether the simulated hemorrhage is slow, moderate, or fast, analysis of thermographic images of the forehead demonstrates tight correlations with stroke volume. For field applications, we envision the capability to gauge magnitudes of blood loss experienced by wounded Soldiers, to assist with decision support and triage prioritization.”

To learn more about TATRC’s medical robotics program, visit http://www.tatrc.org/robotics. A video demonstrating the robotic triage technology is available at http://www.perlresearch.com/robottriage.


  • BARB RUPPERT is a science and technology writer for MRMC’s TATRC. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in education from Virginia Tech.

U.S. Army Researchers Awarded Patent for Microclimate Cooling Technology

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Microclimate cooling (MCC) technologies have been successful in alleviating heat strain in Soldiers confined to vehicles, but cooling limitations and power and weight restrictions make MCC impractical when mobilized on foot.

A solution was needed that increased the efficiency of heat transfer from the human body to the microclimate cooling system. Traditional MCC approaches involve constant skin cooling with liquids at low temperatures and high flow rates. As a result, MCC power, size, and weight requirements are large.

Scientists at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, with the help of engineers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, discovered that over-cooling the skin can slow heat loss, while under-cooling the skin results in greater strain on the heart. Both problems were minimized by allowing skin temperature to fluctuate narrowly using skin temperature itself to automate cooling.

A patent for body temperature regulation using skin temperature feedback was funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC) and awarded Nov. 23, 2010 (U.S. Patent No. 7,837,723). The new body temperature regulation approach is an MCC methodology for maximizing heat flux, minimizing physiological strain, and conserving battery power. Sensors within an MCC garment signal the need to provide or withdraw cooling based on an optimal skin temperature range determined empirically from laboratory experiments. A series of studies demonstrated that with this approach, heat extraction is optimized (similar to constant cooling), and power consumption is reduced by 40 to 50 percent.

The application and integration of this MCC method will decrease the size and weight of future MCC systems and make possible effective MCC for Soldiers mobilized on foot.


  • Article courtesy of MRMC

Technology Assessment and Requirements Analysis Team Helps Put Medical Facilities Back on Track

By | Best Practices, Logistics | No Comments

Jill Lauterborn

“Today is a blur for me,” said CW3 Terry Dover, fresh from temporary duty. “I walked into my office over there, and I said, ‘Where’s all my stuff? Did I get fired while I was gone?’ ” Fortunately, it was just another office move. Dover’s papers and belongings were boxed in a new office.

Dover is used to being on the go. He and colleagues on the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA) Technology Assessment and Requirements Analysis (TARA) team have experienced steady growth and inevitable changes over the past few years. Dover is the Project Manager for Clinical Technologies and the TARA Team Lead in the Integrated Clinical Systems Program Management Office.

A key component of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, USAMMA manages strategic-level medical logistics and provides medical equipment for Active Component, U.S. Army Reserve, and U.S. Army National Guard forces. Comprising a full-time team of 14 and drawing on a corps of expert consultants from the U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General, the TARA team conducts thorough analyses of medical treatment facilities.

The team assesses clinical operations; workload requirements; technical operations; and equipment maintenance, use, and life cycle. The team then translates those findings into recommended process improvements and equipment replacement plans. Since 1995, the program has achieved a recognized cost savings of $231 million for the Army Medical Department in service and maintenance contracts, equipment purchases, group buys, and environmental hazard reduction.

Dover’s team charts an ambitious schedule; it is slated to assess seven Army medical centers and hospitals this year alone. By year’s end, the TARA team will have zigzagged across the country, working in Maryland, Kentucky, Texas, Georgia, Washington, Alaska, and California. In past years, the team has deployed to such far-flung locales as Korea, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Honduras.

COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY
Along the way, the team has made vital changes to outdated doctrine at medical treatment facilities worldwide. Dover cites the increased use of, and reliance on, computed tomography (CT) scans as a prime example.

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Comprising a full-time team of 14 and drawing on a corps of expert consultants from the U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General, the TARA team conducts thorough analyses of medical treatment facilities.

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“We changed things dramatically when we went into the Gulf War,” said Dover. “The CT became essential [toward assessing] the types of trauma we are seeing now. With a CT, you can see everything to some degree, and you can perform a CT scan in a couple of minutes to know what is broken … where things may be bleeding. That becomes critical when you go into surgery.”

The CT’s benefits extend beyond the operating room, as the scans provide important feedback to field combat units. “If we see certain head injuries on a CT, we know the armor is not doing the job,” said Dover. “Or maybe it’s doing the job but missing this part of it. So people are going to go back and say, ‘Look, we know blast injuries are doing this. We are protecting the skull, but we have all these other problems.’ ”

CT is just one tool in TARA’s growing arsenal. Dover’s overriding mission is to assemble joint teams to better understand how different forces’ facilities might operate.

“The intent is to pool [experts] from different areas, so when we walk through the doors [of any] facility, that gives us instant credibility,” Dover said. “There are some nuances in how the Army does things, how the Air Force does things, and how the Navy does things, but ultimately, how they treat patients is really the same.”

OUTLINING CAPABILITIES
A TARA assessment can also outline a facility’s capabilities, enabling incoming personnel to get up to speed quickly. During winter 2009, the team traveled to Soto Cano Air Base in Comayagua, Honduras, to evaluate the medical element at Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-B) before a new logistics chief arrived. What the team found was a facility in need of logistical guidance.

JTF-B is wholly dependent on generators for its power. The hot and humid climate, with rain half the year, is hard on equipment. Base personnel must send the equipment stateside for maintenance. If a crisis occurs, humanitarian or otherwise, staff must pull field equipment from the clinic.

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The TARA team was able to assess the equipment and put together a replacement schedule, ensuring that critical medical equipment used in delivering health care to our deployed members is the best it can be and within safety and regulatory management controls.

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In just one week, Dover and 10 team members combed through JTF-B, evaluating the facility’s nursing and operations, equipment and laboratory, diagnostic imaging, and image archive and transfer system. The resulting report included an inventory of more than 150 items, from operating tables to battery chargers, listing manufacturers, model numbers, and life expectancy for each piece of equipment. TARA also streamlined the equipment replacement process and made recommendations in other areas, from staffing to training to record-keeping, all with an eye to improving operations, safety, and quality of care.

U.S. Air Force Maj Andrea Ryan, the incoming JTF-B Logistics Chief, reported to the base four months after the assessment and praised what Dover’s team was able to achieve in its short time at the facility.

“Chief Dover has been nothing short of amazing,” said Ryan. “The TARA team was able to assess the equipment and put together a replacement schedule, ensuring that critical medical equipment used in delivering health care to our deployed members is the best it can be and within safety and regulatory management controls. [That] support for field operations is more than any medical logistics officer could ask for.”

For more information on the TARA program, visit http://www.usamma.army.mil/tara.cfm.


  • JILL LAUTERBORN is a writer for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. She has nearly two decades of editing and writing experience.

Natural Disaster, Manmade Solutions

By | Acquisition, General | No Comments

Jill Lauterborn

In the wake of the Jan. 12, 2010, 7.0-magnitude earthquake near Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Project HOPE (http://www.projecthope.org/) sent doctors, nurses, technicians, and medical supplies to Haiti aboard USNS Comfort. Leading the medical response team was COL Fred Gerber (U.S. Army, Ret.), Project HOPE Country Director for Iraq and Special Projects.

Gerber turned his attention to three timeworn hospitals: the 70-bed Adventist in Diquini, Port-Au-Prince; the 130-bed Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles, a town about 60 miles from Port-Au-Prince; and the 73-bed Sacred Heart (Hospital Sacré Coeur) in Milot, a town 12 miles south of Cap Haitien. All were overwhelmed, with their caseloads tripling in a matter of days, taxing their sanitation and electrical capacities. Each also faced dire shortages of medicine, oxygen, and potable water.

Where others might see futility, Gerber saw opportunity, drawing on more than 30 years as a medical planner and operator for the U.S. Army Medical Department. “It was a perfect opportunity to do a health facilities assessment to identify the gaps,” he explained. “I did it in the military with the Health Facilities Planning Agency [HFPA]. They would put teams together—mechanical and electrical engineers, architects, health facilities planners, … nurse critical assessors, and medical equipment repairmen and technicians from USAMMA [U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency]—so that’s what we did.”

Gerber put together a six-member assessment team, including himself as lead, a health and facility planner, an electrical engineer, a mechanical engineer, and a structural engineer.

CW3 Terry Dover, USAMMA Technology Assessment and Requirements Analysis (TARA) Team Lead, filled the sixth slot as the team’s biomedical equipment specialist.“I went as a Project HOPE member, using my TARA and HFPA background … and applying it to what we knew,” he said.

REBUILDING MEDICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
The team wasted no time, assessing Albert Schweitzer on April 7, Sacred Heart on April 9, and Adventist on April 11, 2010, and inspecting each facility from top to bottom. Dover inventoried all usable medical equipment, as well as defunct gear to determine whether it was repairable. Gerber combined Dover’s assessment with those of the other members to provide each facility with both short-term fixes and broad, long-term solutions.

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It is important we keep our heads and continue to make plans and progress in the face of all these other obstacles, and I think that’s the greatest contribution these guys made.

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“We looked at several hospitals, [but] really laid out a plan to rebuild the entire medical infrastructure,” Dover said.

Tim Traynor, CRUDEM Foundation volunteer and Facility Director at Sacred Heart, was particularly impressed by the team’s assessment of his hospital’s electrical system, which had exposed wires that would short out and catch fire during surgeries.

“[The lack of] reliable electricity in Haiti is the bane of progress,” Traynor explained. “The timing was perfect, because [our systems] were under the greatest amount of physical strain and stress, and there were opportunities to take measurements and make observations unique to such stress.”

The team gave Traynor a plan to rewire the entire electrical system and soon acquired all necessary wire, panels, and other parts.

The plan also addressed other problem areas, including patient capacity, air filtration, and adequate roofing. The assessment was respectfully candid about infrastructure realities in the beleaguered island nation, stating in part, “Some of what appear to be problems become less significant as the evaluators become more familiar and accepting with the realities and expectations of the Haitian people.”

“The core value of the document lies in the fact it was integrated from multiple disciplines,” Traynor said. “Things were not taken in a vacuum; they were looked at in the greatest overall picture. I was very surprised at the quality. For a group that basically went in and was very intuitive, they walked out with a picture that took me probably two and a half years to put together in my mind. They did it in a couple weeks, and that’s impressive, very impressive.”

TRYING TIMES
January 2011 marked a year since the earthquake. Even before it struck, life in Haiti was below standard. The hospitals were rationing power, and the quake further taxed their electrical systems. Now the country is reeling from political upheaval while fighting a deadly cholera outbreak. Sacred Heart alone treated more than 1,000 cholera patients in November and December 2010. While funds have been pledged to assist, they have been slow to arrive.

Traynor stands in the gap at Sacred Heart and remains unperturbed. “It is important we keep our heads and continue to make plans and progress in the face of all these other obstacles, and I think that’s the greatest contribution these guys made. They were in a chaotic environment, they did perform a very valuable function, and they’ve all said whatever they can do to help, they’d like to continue. [They deserve] a lot of gratitude for that.”


  • JILL LAUTERBORN is a writer for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. She has nearly two decades of editing and writing experience.

No Digging Required—Providers Access Digital Medical Record System for Injured Soldier

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Bill Snethen

One inch ended MAJ Andy Ingalsbe’s service in theater. In September 2009, a sniper’s round struck him in the back, an inch below his Kevlar vest. The reservist and his civil affairs team had just completed a humanitarian mission in Afghanistan’s Paktika province.

The well-placed projectile did extensive damage. The bullet cracked two vertebrae, destroyed Ingalsbe’s right kidney, and wrecked his liver and digestive tract. Unable to brace himself for the fall, Ingalsbe also injured his neck when his head slammed against the ground.

Surgical teams treated him at Forward Operating Base Sharana and Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. They also digitally documented Ingalsbe’s care in computer systems fielded and supported by the Army’s Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care program. His digital medical history helped physicians at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC, piece together his traumatic story.

“I arrived at Walter Reed five days after my injury, but I regained consciousness on the 18th day,” Ingalsbe said. “The doctors told me about my injuries, and I required a lot of replumbing. Surgeons in Afghanistan removed a kidney and my right colon. The entire time I lived at Walter Reed, the doctors never asked me about any of my prior treatments. They had all of the information in my digital records. One doctor said that I looked better medically in person than what was documented in my chart.”

VOLUNTARY TOUR CUT SHORT
Ingalsbe was devastated by the timing of the injury. For 25 years, he had trained for combat as a military policeman. In 2005, he came out of retirement voluntarily to serve on the battlefield in civil affairs.

From 2005 to 2006, Ingalsbe led more than 80 missions throughout Iraq. His teams dug wells, repaired schools, and handed out food. However, the humanitarian experience came with a price. An improvised explosive device damaged his hearing. Ingalsbe remained committed to the mission. At the end of his tour, he retired for a second time.

In 2008, he returned to active duty and deployed in the same capacity, this time for one year in Afghanistan. While in theater, he decided to extend for a second year. Two days before he was set to begin another yearlong tour, the sniper’s bullet ended Ingalsbe’s service in theater.

Ingalsbe recuperated at Walter Reed for eight months. Digital medical history from the battlefield and home enabled MAJ Jane Dickler, Nurse Case Manager with the Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed, to keep a close watch on Ingalsbe and others.

“I review the electronic records and treatment plan to make sure my patients receive the medical attention they require,” Dickler said. “Since the medical staff captures patient data electronically, it eliminates the need to hunt for paper forms. It also significantly reduces the possibility of losing patient information. My team also reviews appointment schedules so that patients are where they need to be at the correct times.”

Ingalsbe underwent a second surgery in March 2010. To repair the damage in his neck, a neurosurgeon inserted two titanium discs and a metal plate to hold them in place. Three months after the operation, Ingalsbe transferred to the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit-Arkansas (CBWTU-AR). Ingalsbe continues his rehabilitation at outpatient facilities in his hometown of West Plains, MO.

“Patients such as Ingalsbe are able to receive medical care in their own communities,” said MAJ Barbara Schulz, Nurse Case Manager with the CBWTU-AR, who manages Ingalsbe’s care. “When Ingalsbe receives physical therapy at his local hospital or meets with his family physician, we receive documentation from the civilian providers. Ultimately, all of the records we collect will go to the Department of Veterans Affairs, allowing future providers to view his complete medical history.”

CONTINUING THE PAPER TRAIL
Ingalsbe still collects paper copies of every form from his appointments, although digital medical records have replaced paper forms. Since he was shot, the paper folder has been replaced by a plastic binder. He also has CD-ROMs and DVDs with the results of his radiology exams.

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One doctor said that I looked better medically in person than what was documented in my chart.

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“The military is much different today than when I began my career 30 years ago,” Ingalsbe said. “For most of my career, service members kept paper copies of their medical records to protect against a clinic misplacing months or years of medical information. Today, digital notes build upon older records like e-mail messages. I don’t have a medical background, but the digital records are pretty easy to follow.”

Periodically, Ingalsbe returns to Walter Reed for follow-up appointments, and he looks forward to the day when he receives medical clearance from both surgeries. When that happens, he will retire from the military for a third and final time. When the time comes for a medical review board to determine his future medical benefits, the board will be well-informed, Ingalsbe notes.

“Between my paper copies and the digital records in the military’s computer system, I have my medical history covered,” he said. “The medical board will have a complete medical picture of my military service.

“I have a lot of good memories from my military career. As a permanent reminder of my deployment to Afghanistan, I have a 12-inch scar on my abdomen and the sniper’s round mounted on my wall with my Purple Heart.”


  • BILL SNETHEN provides Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care Program public relations support. He holds a B.A. in communications from William Paterson University. Snethen has more than 15 years of public relations experience.

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Scenarios Prep Reservists for Medical Records Task in Iraq

By | Acquisition, Science and Technology | No Comments

Bill Snethen and Ray Steen

Triaging mass casualties, tracking lab results, and reestablishing network connectivity are routine tasks in deployed treatment facilities. Each activity requires immense coordination. Active-duty medical units train daily, fine-tuning their efforts as a team. U.S. Army Reservists prepare in small groups one weekend every month leading up to their deployment date.

Helping to prepare Reservists for deployment to theater is the 191st Training Support Brigade (TSB), which readies 37 reserve medical units every year for the hardships and learning curves of theater. Field training exercises offer essential hands-on experience with the same equipment Reservists will use in the combat zone.

Unlike active-duty personnel, Reservists typically have little time to master the computer system Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care (MC4), which they use on the battlefield to record, track, and share medical information. The flow of medical information supports operations on the ground, allows for greater situational awareness, and helps service members receive complete electronic medical histories.

In November, members of the 256th Combat Support Hospital (CSH), a Reserve unit, trained together for the first time at Fort Lewis, WA. Using MC4 systems, 200 Reservists readied for their split-based mission during a four-day field exercise, which helped the 256th CSH prepare for and avoid pitfalls downrange. Planned simulations showcased the need for more out-of-classroom training.

RECREATING THE BATTLEFIELD
“We replicate everything a medical unit will see in theater,” said LTC Paris Um, Deputy Exercise Director for the 191st TSB. “This is a good environment for unit commanders to see how the personnel respond to real-world situations. We set up units for success when they go downrange.”

The exercise, like the battlefield, operated 24-7. Ambulances delivered mass casualties with severe burns and shrapnel wounds. Actors portrayed Iraqi citizens seeking medical attention. The Reservists captured all patient data in MC4 systems, which remained operational during an unscheduled communications outage.

“We’re dealing with real-world conditions and problems,” said SGT Timothy Klaus, supporting the 256th CSH Signal Office. “We’ll be doing the same level of support when we deploy. If we arrived in theater without this experience, the hospital could be dead in the water.”

According to the Learning Pyramid developed by National Training Laboratories, people retain new information more effectively through active learning. The model illustrates that hands-on experience results in 75 percent training retention versus 30 percent typically achieved by classroom demonstration. The MC4 program refocused its training curriculum in 2010, placing greater emphasis on field exercises for deploying units. In 2010, MC4 supported 22 exercises worldwide.

Many members of the 191st TSB augmented MC4-led instruction, drawing upon their individual experiences with MC4 in theater.

“I deployed as a medic with the 41st Brigade Combat Team in 2009,” said SGT Richard Ramirez, 191st TSB. “When I talk with users, I stress the importance of electronically charting patient data right away. The digital notes benefit the patients, the medical teams, and the higher command.”

Because of their experience with the MC4 system, the 191st TSB could critique every aspect of the treatment facility’s implementation of MC4. They stressed the importance of accurately tracking patients throughout the facility, prioritizing the patient flow, and digitally monitoring and restocking supply shelves.

“The on-site training has been golden,” said LTC Diane Adloff, who will command one of the treatment facilities for the 256th CSH in Iraq. “It gives us time to practice for the realities of the battlefield. Everyone needs to understand our requirements the moment we hit the ground.”


  • BILL SNETHEN provides MC4 Program public relations support. He holds a B.A. in communications from William Paterson University. Snethen has more than 15 years of public relations experience.
  • RAY STEEN is the MC4 Public Affairs Officer. He holds a B.S. in public relations and corporate media communications from James Madison University. Steen has more than 14 years of integrated marketing communications experience.

 

 

Program Executive Office Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation Shapes Future Contracting Professionals

By | Career Development, Contracting | No Comments

Marnita Harris and Allison Laera

To retain a high-quality workforce, Program Executive Office Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) leaders are committed not only to the warfighter, but also to providing a career path that will develop expertise as well as an exciting professional and personal challenge. PEO STRI’s intern program provides a strong start toward building a career within the Contracting and Acquisition Career Program 14.

A VISION
In 2007, Kim Denver, then PEO STRI Acquisition Director and Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting (PARC), had a vision to establish an intern program within the Acquisition Center. “The purpose of establishing a robust intern program was to address the disparity between the high demand for and low supply of qualified contracting personnel based on the significant vacancies in contracting across DOD,” she said. “The most effective approach to address the issue was to develop an intern program to hire new employees and develop them into seasoned contracting professionals.”

In 2009, Joseph A. Giunta Jr. was appointed as the PARC for the PEO STRI Acquisition Center. He is involved with the progress of the intern program.

Giunta selects one intern per week to attend the program executive officer’s staff meeting. These meetings, in which senior leadership discusses current issues and future planning, are a valuable experience for the interns to watch leaders make decisions, discuss programs, and work together.

“The quality of the interns we are bringing into the PEO STRI Acquisition Center workforce today is outstanding,” said Giunta. “The PEO’s investment in the Acquisition Academy and other initiatives focused on recruiting and selections have proved to be a great success, and I am extremely confident and excited about the future of our young contracting workforce.”

PROGRAM ENVIRONMENT
Emilce Hessler, Senior Procurement Analyst, provides a stable training environment that promotes growth and career advancement. Hessler has supplied a structured schedule for interns to receive Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act certification, yearly rotations among the various divisions, and 30-day rotations for experience in the Office of Small Business Programs and the Acquisition Center’s Policy Division.

The interns gain valuable knowledge through this structured environment while working on the job, rotating positions, completing required training, and doing special projects. Hessler provides a sounding board for interns, gives advice when needed, and is available to provide any assistance that interns need during their first three years of government employment. “It’s been extremely rewarding to be a part of an individual’s professional development and to witness personal growth,” she said.

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The PEO’s investment in the Acquisition Academy and other initiatives focused on recruiting and selections have proved to be a great success, and I am extremely confident and excited about the future of our young contracting workforce.

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SPECIALIZED TRAINING
Interns are provided with an opportunity to further their professional careers within a structured environment. Specialized training in the program is accomplished through the Acquisition Academy, on-the-job training, rotational cross-training, and continuous learning.

Interns attend the Acquisition Academy for 11 weeks before entering the workforce. They receive valuable information preparing them to succeed as federal employees, including Army organizations, installations, ranks, and structure. This training program is composed of various career fields to include engineer, budget analyst, program analyst, acquisition contract specialist, logistics management specialist, and project director intern. Subject matter experts provide daily training to the interns on topics such as the basics of contract types, financial regulations, market research, source selection criteria, performance-based logistics, small business requirements, risk management, and legal reviews.

After successful completion of the academy, interns enter the workforce and are assigned to a senior contract specialist for mentorship, to help the interns become more self-confident and competent in their careers.

Lovisa Parks, Senior Contract Specialist at PEO STRI, stated, “You are only as good as the organization you work for and the people who you share your values and corporate culture with. I chose to help junior contract specialists because eventually we will be working side by side, and I may even eventually end up working for them. Mentorship will only enrich your life and add value to your organization as a whole.”

On-the-job training offers interns the opportunity to learn different skill sets. It also allows them to develop their own time management system that best facilitates multitasking on-the-job. Interns attend meetings with contractors, integrated product teams, and other contract specialists. Senior contract specialists also advise interns on answering questions from Integrated Product Teams or contractors. Interns are delegated new tasks as their knowledge base grows. Interns learn how to use the Standard Procurement System while learning how to choose which contract vehicle to use. They also learn contract administration, file management, and contract modifications, and are trained in how to document the file, interpret and implement laws and regulations, and use the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

At monthly meetings, guest speakers elaborate on topics such as the Government Purchase Card Program, Procurement Administration Lead Time Memo, policy updates, and temporary duty tips. Interns also present topics to the group to gain presentation experience.

While performing the duties of a business advisor, the interns are coached in determining the best solution and developing a decision.

The program lays the foundation for networking opportunities as well. The interns are in direct contact with senior leadership, guest speakers, and other interns, which helps to build future relationships within their new career fields. Successful completion of the management training program leads to a full-performance federal acquisition career with the potential to move into mid- or high-level management positions.

VOICES OF EXPERIENCE
“Beginning my Army career in the Acquisition Academy, I was able to meet and learn from program and budget analysts, engineers, and fellow contract specialists,” said Susan Abascal, a contract specialist intern. “By making these connections early on, I am now able to find support from these colleagues throughout my rotations.”

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On-the-job training offers interns the opportunity to learn different skill sets. It also allows them to develop their own time management system that best facilitates multitasking on-the-job.

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Michelle D. Williams, a recent intern graduate, said her experience from the intern program was gratifying and humbling, considering how her work influences the warfighter. “Learning how to do what we do by being exposed to different divisions and departments through on-the-job training, courses, and mentoring has contributed to my professional development immensely. I am confident this growth will continue and follow me throughout my career. The simulation, training, and instrumentation area of acquisition directly affects the warfighter, because without the proper training, products, and services—along with the maintenance and sustainment of these products and services being put on contract [on time] and efficiently—our Soldiers would not receive proper training, which can negatively impact their service to our homeland.”


  • MARNITA HARRIS is a PEO STRI Contract Specialist. She holds a B.S. in business management and an M.B.A. from Indiana Wesleyan University. Harris is certified Level III in contracting.
  • ALLISON LAERA is a PEO STRI Contract Specialist. She holds a B.S.B.A. in management information systems and an M.B.A. from the University of Central Florida. Laera is certified Level I in contracting.

Flying the CH-47F Chinook Helicopter: A Contracting Officer’s Journey

By | Commentary, Contracting | No Comments

Jean Hodges

When I started out in contracting, doing construction for the Kansas Army National Guard in the late 1980s, not a week went by that I wasn’t out at the job site climbing ladders, examining pipes, or doing aircraft hangar walk-throughs. But for many of us in contracting today, our phones, computers, and videoconferences wall us into our offices and chain us to our desks, as we try to keep up with an ever-growing workload. Touching what we procure has become a treat, and when it comes to systems, actually operating one is even more of a rarity.

I recently had the opportunity to sit in a helicopter simulator that my office procured. I felt the rumble of the cockpit seat and experienced the thrill that those CH-47 Chinook pilots whom I support experience every day.

FROM CALIFORNIA TO AFGHANISTAN
My “co-pilot,” Dennis Booth, CH-47F Transportable Flight Proficiency Simulator Device Manager, guided me expertly through the simulator’s displays, stick and thrust controls, pedals, and flight modes as I took off from Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, CA, cruised over the hills, and dodged the skyscrapers of San Diego—maneuvers made possible with projectors and mirrors right here at Program Executive Office Aviation in Huntsville, AL.

Just as I was wondering what happens if the Chinook’s computer goes down, Dennis demonstrated the manual and fail-safe displays and controls familiar to me from Hollywood re-creations. At this point, Dennis suggested that I land “somewhere.” I opted against the water landing Chinooks can make for my first try, and since we headed inland, I decided instead on an uneven grassy hillside. Pushing downward on the thrust with my left hand while pulling back on the stick with my right, I was able to reduce my speed and altitude without losing alignment with the quickly approaching ground, as shown on the three different glowing displays in front of me.

[rule type=”basic”]

Not to be undone by this little setback, we restarted the program and were soon heading out over the desert plain in pursuit of the lead helicopters.

[rule type=”basic”]

When Dennis asked if I wanted to go to Afghanistan, of course I couldn’t pass that up. Two minutes later, against the natural forces of time and space, we were on the runway in Jalalabad, powering up to accompany three other Chinooks on our mock mission. Were it not for a moment of panic when Dennis left his co-pilot seat to adjust the computer, I think I could have executed another perfect takeoff. But, alas, I pitched right, then overcompensated—straight into the holographic hangar. With red flashing before my eyes, my death was instantaneous.

Not to be undone by this little setback, we restarted the program and were soon heading out over the desert plain in pursuit of the lead helicopters.

Dennis, still behind me at the “real” helm, suddenly created a thunderstorm at my 2 o’clock. It doubled and then tripled in size, the lightning fierce and the black clouds truly ominous. As if that weren’t bad enough, Dennis and his computer took us from noon to midnight in a split second. I could see the lights of two of my brethren, but not the third.

As my allotted time ended (because Dennis was scheduled to be the co-pilot for another lucky adventurer) we emerged back into the comfort and safety of the simulator cockpit. I first thought of the skill, bravery, and pride of real pilots who fly every day. My second thought was, Wow! I buy not only these simulators that are part of pilots’ training, but also the actual helicopters they use to carry cargo and save Soldiers’ lives.

[rule type=”basic”]

I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing more important than getting that helicopter pilot what he needs, when he needs it.

[rule type=”basic”]

‘NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT’
By afternoon, I was back to the four walls of a conference room, listening to a debate about identifying and obtaining parts and kits and waiting anxiously for that little nugget of contracting information that makes those meetings worthwhile.

Lo and behold, my ears perked up when someone mentioned “CAAS.” Before today, my brain would have immediately interpreted this as “Contract Administration and Audit Services.” Now, when someone says CAAS, I imagine myself in that cockpit, following the instructions from the Common Aviation Architecture System to safely take off, fly, and land a CH-47F helicopter, albeit simulated.

And when I review a Statement of Work or negotiate a contract for the CAAS component, I have a point of reference that brings to life the words and numbers in front of me. At that moment, I know without a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing more important than getting that helicopter pilot what he needs, when he needs it.


  • JEAN HODGES is the Director for Program Executive Office Aviation’s CH-47 Contracts. She holds a B.A. in psychology, human development, and crime and delinquency from the University of Kansas, an M.A. in contract management from Webster University, and an M.S. in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Hodges is certified Level III in contracting and Level I in program management and in business, cost, and finance. She is a Competitive Development Group/Army Acquisition Fellowship graduate and a U.S. Army Acquisition Corps member.

 

DACM Corner: In Search of Contingency Contracting Officers and NCOs

By | Career Development, Commentary, Contracting | No Comments

LTG William N. Phillips

As I look at how to achieve growth and rebalancing across the acquisition workforce, it is clear to me that there are very talented, highly motivated people in our Army who would be great assets to our acquisition, logistics, and technology mission, if only they knew more about it. So I want to devote this column to an acquisition career field that is particularly rewarding and especially in need of more Soldiers: contingency contracting officer and contingency contracting NCO.

Contingency contracting officers have the vital job of providing forward contracting support to ongoing war zone and humanitarian missions worldwide. Our Army is making a concerted effort to expand its ranks of contingency contracting officers and noncommissioned officers in Military Occupational Specialty 51C, Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Contracting NCO.

These are not desk jobs—far from it. Contingency contracting is a front-line mission. Last year, the Army conducted 108 contingency contracting missions in 39 countries, providing combat support in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as humanitarian relief in Haiti and Pakistan. It’s the contingency contracting officer’s job to make those operations happen.

Contingency contracting teams consist of two officers and two enlisted personnel placed inside a civilian contracting office on an installation. You may be contracting for commodities, construction, or services. Whatever you are tasked with purchasing, you are providing essential support to our warfighters.

As is true throughout the AL&T Workforce, we’re looking for demonstrated excellence and the potential for future excellence as we grow our contingency contracting workforce. We need candidates with experience across the full range of Army activities to include logistics, combat arms, finance, and other areas.

For MOS 51C specifically, where the Army is looking to add about 100 NCOs each year, we need promotable sergeants, staff sergeants, and sergeants first class with less than 10 years of service. Those with less than 13 years’ service may receive waivers. If you’re a younger Soldier with some college who has shown leadership, take a look at the 51C website, https://asc.army.mil/career/programs/nco/nco_prereq.cfm, for information on how to put together an application packet.

Selected candidates will add to their education through acquisition and contracting courses. They gain a broad spectrum of knowledge in the materiel acquisition process—including relevant laws, regulations, policies, procedures, organizations, and Army doctrine. In addition, they learn new skills in providing contracting support to joint forces across the full spectrum of military and disaster relief operations. These highly valued skills include mastery of the PD2 software tool as well as contingency contracting techniques and procedures.

Contingency contracting training is available at the Mission Ready Airmen Course in San Antonio, TX, and at the Army Acquisition Basic Course at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

Within a year of joining the field, you could find yourself supporting counterinsurgency and humanitarian relief efforts. Activities you are likely to support include helping local populations stand up businesses, rebuilding their economies, and establishing employment for large numbers of people. In the current conflict(s), this is how our Army intends to prevail: by helping people who would otherwise be our enemy find productive and satisfying work, rather than planting improvised explosive devices.

Taking care of our Army acquisition workforce continues to be my Number One priority. Getting cutting-edge capability into the hands of Soldiers, when and where they need it, requires a robust, well-balanced acquisition workforce. Contingency contracting is an essential part of this mission. Join us!


  • LTG WILLIAM N. PHILLIPS

Acquisition Education and Training Corner: March 2011 Update

By | Acquisition, Career Development, General | No Comments

Upcoming Training Opportunities

  • We have many educational and leadership opportunities available in the near term. Our updated Acquisition Education, Training, and Experience Catalog provides in-depth information on all training and developmental opportunities. Please view the catalog on the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC) at https://asc.army.mil/career/pubs/aete/default.cfm for information on all training opportunities available to acquisition civilian and military workforce members. Eligible and interested applicants may apply for all of our programs by using the Army Acquisition Professional Development System tab within the Career Acquisition Management Portal/Career Acquisition Personnel and Position Management Information System (CAMP/CAPPMIS) at https://rda.altess.army.mil/camp.
  • The School of Choice (SOC) announcement is currently open and runs through May 2. SOC is a highly competitive, 18- to 24-month full-time degree-granting program that provides civilian Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce members GS-11 through 15, or broad/pay band equivalent within a Demonstration Project or the National Security Personnel System, an opportunity to keep their current acquisition position while completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree during duty hours. For more information, visit the SOC website at https://asc.army.mil/career/programs/soc/default.cfm.
  • The Naval Postgraduate School-Master of Science in Program Management (NPS-MSPM) (Distance Learning) announcement opened March 17 and runs through May 17. NPS-MSPM is an eight quarter, 24-month part-time master’s degree program. The program requires students to take two courses per quarter over a 24-month period. For more information, visit the NPS-MSPM website at https://asc.army.mil/career/programs/npsmspm/default.cfm.
  • The announcement for the next offering of the Congressional Operations Seminar will be open April 7 through May 6. The Congressional Operations Seminar is a five-day seminar on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, that will provide civilian AL&T Workforce members a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities within the U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, and Senate as they relate to the performance management of the defense acquisition system and policy. For more information, visit the Congressional Operations Seminar website at https://asc.army.mil/career/programs/ConOps/default.cfm.
  • The announcement for our Acquisition Tuition Assistance Program (ATAP) will be open July 15 through Aug. 31. ATAP is designed for civilian AL&T Workforce members who wish to complete an undergraduate or graduate degree or fulfill the certification of U.S. Army Acquisition Corps membership business-hour requirements. For more information, visit the ATAP website at https://asc.army.mil/career/programs/atap/default.cfm.

DEFENSE ACQUISITION UNIVERSITY HIGHLIGHTS

  • FY12 Defense Acquisition University (DAU) class schedule: Open registration for FY12 classes begins May 18. Students may apply through the Army Training Requirements and Resources System (ATRRS) Internet Training Application System (AITAS) at https://www.atrrs.army.mil/channels/aitas.
  • New Student Information System (SIS): DAU has successfully procured a commercial-off-the-shelf SIS to replace the current, distinct DAU registration systems for the four services. The system, named PORTICO, is Web-based and will interface with current DAU and DOD systems, ATRRS, and CAMP/CAPPMIS. Army workforce members will be able to authenticate via a DOD common access card. PORTICO will standardize functionality and capability available for all services. It will allow more transparency and up-to-date status to students when applying for DAU courses. The initial operating capability date is targeted for June 2013.
  • Shortfall in Level II Contracting Classes: There are six commercial vendors and four universities that offer CON 215, 217, and 218 equivalent classes. For more information on equivalencies, please visit DAU’s website at http://icatalog.dau.mil/appg.aspx. Please e-mail the program execution point of contact at usaascweb-ac@conus.army.mil if you are unable to obtain CON 215, 217, and/or 218 this fiscal year and would like to use Section 852 funds to pay for an equivalent provider. USAASC plans to offer this to individuals who need those courses and are unable to get an FY11 reservation.
  • Shortfall in Level II Business, Cost, and Financial Management (BCFM) courses: The Army is placing only first-priority students into available BCFM classes. DAU is well aware of the backlog and is working to expand classroom size for current and additional course offerings. The demand is due to a surge of BCFM certification requirements, which is a temporary issue. For experienced BCFM personnel, fulfillment of the course is recommended. Fulfillment information may be found at http://icatalog.dau.mil/DAUFulfillmentPgm.aspx.
  • New Program Management Tools (PMT) 257 course: PMT Part II will replace the current PMT 256 course, effective third quarter of FY11. PMT 250 and 256 will remain valid predecessor courses until Oct. 1, 2012. For more information on the course, see the I-Catalog link at http://icatalog.dau.mil/onlinecatalog/courses.aspx?crs_id=1735.
  • PMT 257 is a five-day online course, and class start times are regionalized. The course will cover earned value management, scheduling, and risk topics. Students will have two weeks to complete approximately four to six hours of pre-course work before the course begins. This is extremely important; failure to do so will make the first day of the course tedious.
  • The course includes an individual, open-book final exam. Students must obtain 80 percent (with no remediation) to pass the course. These offerings are available for registration now in AITAS at https://www.atrrs.army.mil/channels/aitas/.
  • Please note that the course begins at 8 a.m. in the time zone in which it is being offered. Unless a student specifically requests the course, Pacific Time Zone students should not apply to the Eastern Time Zone offerings, and vice versa.
  • DAU will host its annual Acquisition Community Symposium on April 12, 2011, at its Fort Belvoir campus. High-level officials from both government and industry will address the theme, “Making Every Dollar Count—Improving Acquisition Outcomes,” at this one-day event. The conference opens with a keynote by Dr. Ashton B. Carter, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD(AT&L)), followed by an Acquisition Executive Panel moderated by Frank Kendall III, Principal Deputy USD(AT&L), to focus on the services’ achievement of Carter’s Sept. 14, 2010, memorandum to acquisition professionals, which provided guidance on obtaining greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending.
  • The agenda also includes a presentation by Christine Fox, Director, Office of the Secretary of Defense Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Office; a congressional-level perspective from Peter Levine of the Senate Armed Services Committee; and an industry panel perspective on attaining a new direction in acquisition leadership and management moderated by Stan Soloway.
  • Through a series of speakers and panels, the symposium will examine issues including target affordability and control cost growth and incentivizing productivity and innovation in industry. Additionally, breakout sessions will address implementation of USD(AT&L)’s affordability initiatives, and one session will cover the DAU Alumni Association Research Paper Competition winners (Hirsch Prize). The symposium will conclude with dinner and a speech by former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, who currently is co-chair of the Commission on Wartime Contracting.
  • Presentations honoring the winner of the 2011 Alumni Association’s Acker Award, induction of new DAU Hall of Fame members, and presentation of Hirsch competition winners will wrap up the event. For more information, visit https://www.dauaa.org/Symposium2011/20Registration11.asp.

Joint Contracting Field Training Exercise Provides Valuable Insights

By | Best Practices, Contracting | No Comments

By Charmaine Bottex

 

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.

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During the Joint Contracting Field Training Exercise, service members discussed and collaborated on contracting support during humanitarian contingency operations. From left: SSG Jamie Trice and CPT Susan Styer, 413th CSB; U.S. Air Force 2d Lt Brett Amerine; and U.S. Marine SSgt Erika Bonilla-Rubi. (U.S. Army photo by LTC Joshua Burris, 413th CSB Executive Officer.)

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.

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.

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MAJ John M. Cooper (center) mentors contracting officers TSgt Amber J. Hale (standing), SFC Dawn Bryant (right), and TSgt Donald K. Shevlin during the Joint Contracting Field Training Exercise. (U.S. Army photo by LTC Joshua Burris, 413th CSB Executive Officer.)

LESSONS LEARNED
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.

Army Develops ‘Translator’ for Improved Information Sharing

By | Acquisition, Science and Technology | No Comments

By Claire Heininger

 

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.”

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.

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SMART helps enable interoperability between tactical systems to enhance collaboration, deconfliction, and integration. (U.S. Army photo by SPC Roland Hale.)

“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.

Provisional Command Integrates Special Operations Aviation

By | Acquisition, Logistics | No Comments

By Kellyn D. Ritter

 

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 RESPONSIBILITIES
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.

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BG Kevin W. Mangum (left), then Deputy Commanding General-Center, U.S. Division-Center, visits the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade (ACB), U.S. Division-Center, Camp Taji, Iraq, with COL Douglas Gabram, Commander of 1st ACB, Jan. 27, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by SGT Travis Zielinski, 1st ACB, U.S. Division-Center.)

“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.”

GENERATING FORCE
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.

Picatinny Engineers ‘Squeeze in’ Solution for Safer Ammunition Stowage

By | Acquisition, Science and Technology | No Comments

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.

MAKESHIFT STORAGE
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.

Army Expanding Unmanned Aircraft Systems Fleet, Accelerating Delivery

By | Acquisition, Science and Technology | No Comments

Kris Osborn

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.

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The Army has deployed two Quick Reaction Capabilities of the Gray Eagle, shown here at Camp Taji, Iraq, to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by SPC Roland Hale.)

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.

FUTURE PLANS
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.”

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.

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.

Army Reserve Unit First Is Equipped with New Line-Haul Supply Truck

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MAJ Corey Schultz and Ashley John

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.

PLS-A1

Soldiers from the 730th Transportation Company demonstrate how the PLS-A1 can load and unload equipment faster than previous truck variants. (U.S. Army photo.)

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.”

DESIGN FEATURES
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.

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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.

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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.