C4ISR Field Support Vision 2020: Preparing the self-sufficient force
By Maj. Robert C. Moyer
Since the start of contingency operations, the Army has acquired a variety of urgently needed quick reaction capabilities, such as communications, networking, surveillance and counter-IED solutions, in response to urgent operational needs. In addition to being fast-tracked through the acquisition process to meet critical warfighting demands, these systems, designed to better connect Soldiers and commanders and provide visibility into battlefield threats, represented increasingly complex technology requirements for operators and maintainers alike.
To deliver immediate support for these systems to Soldiers in theater, the Army successfully implemented a robust, contractor-based field support model. However, with the drawdown from Afghanistan and the transition to a leaner, more agile Army, the C4ISR Center of Excellence (CoE) of U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) is building an enduring field support capability for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems that maintains readiness while better aligning to the shifting operations tempo.
The C4ISR CoE built the capability as a result of a right-sizing analysis and is partnering with U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) to refine and implement it. The capability is designed to serve as a holistic solution that facilitates gradual, deliberate shifts to organic support across the force structure while prioritizing Soldier training and readiness.
It is intended not only to emphasize organic field support and Soldier skill development, but also to solve a key issue facing units across the force and signal community: the need to keep pace with the demands of cutting-edge, complex systems and evolving battlefield technology while responding to evolving mission requirements.
SOLDIERS ARE THE CENTERPIECE
The comprehensive effort of the C4ISR CoE focuses on more than simply reducing support in concert with drawdowns overseas. The CoE, which began implementing its new field support structure in spring 2014, intends to synchronize all field support activities across the C4ISR community and thus enhance capability over time by addressing manpower requirements, organizing and optimizing organic support, responding to training needs, and integrating continuous improvement and evaluation initiatives.
From a manpower perspective, the new field support structure places Soldiers at the forefront of weapon system maintenance and issue resolution, supported by division and regional field support teams that align with a tiered structure that dictates roles and functions. (See Figure 1.) The purpose of the tiered structure is to define roles and responsibilities; it positions Soldiers as the focal point for basic field support issues, using on-site multifunctional logistics assistance representatives (LARs), digital systems engineers, field support representatives and field support engineers for low-level problems or issues within the divisions. Regionalized reachback support will handle issues with specific systems or complex challenges, but the structure calls for Soldiers to serve as self-sufficient first responders.
When implemented, 23 staffers divided across division- and brigade-level teams will execute C4ISR field support services per the tiered structure, with regional reachback support from system-specific experts. The team will possess most of the skills necessary to meet C4ISR requirements in the field; however, this support package will be flexible as necessary to accommodate the needs and equipment of each unit.
INVESTING MORE IN TRAINING
This approach signifies a fundamental shift regarding the means whereby units will access and integrate field support. The intention is not simply to reduce historical field support personnel levels, but to regionalize system-specific staff while improving the depth of Soldier proficiency through targeted training. The C4ISR CoE is working with FORSCOM and TRADOC in a deliberate effort to prepare units and Soldiers to build in-house proficiency while maintaining readiness.
Throughout Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, units received deployment-specific training and did not have the time to focus on building profound Soldier military occupational specialty (MOS) skills. As deployment training requirements shift and commanders prepare for a new C4ISR field support structure, the C4ISR CoE, FORSCOM and TRADOC recognize the need to help units target specific training to prepare for the transition and continue to build Soldier proficiency in C4ISR systems operations and maintenance.
To understand current proficiency levels and determine training needs, G-6/S-6 interviews were conducted recently across the force to obtain feedback on TRADOC training within the Signal Branch. The 1st Infantry Division, which will be the first division to implement the new structure, also began an analysis in March.
These data sets, juxtaposed against field support trends identified during site visits to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) and the National Training Center (NTC), are helping AMC and its U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), TRADOC, FORSCOM and field commanders better understand strengths and weaknesses in the field. In turn, they will help units develop and implement brigade-focused training strategies to mitigate current gaps from both the operational and doctrinal vantage points.
The intent is to apply training resources to support a crawl-walk-run approach for implementation, in order to enhance the Army Force Generation training cycle for both individuals and units. (See Figure 2.)
During implementation, division support teams will immediately begin to provide over-the-shoulder training for Soldiers. Regional teams will augment division support teams with system-specific subject-matter experts. CECOM’s LAR program personnel will work with the division signal leaders to support that knowledge transfer.
Additionally, units will need to take efficient advantage of mission training complex (MTC) and Signal University training opportunities to prepare for company- and battalion-level field training exercises. MTCs can provide a simulated environment for Soldiers to hone their skills. They exist to provide commanders and staffs the capability to sustain Soldiers’ individual digital skills, unit mission command collective training, warfighting functional competencies and delta training in support of decisive action using live, virtual and gaming enablers. The MTC staff analyzes unit training objectives and recommends a mix of simulation, gaming and virtual training tools, then develops and executes training scenarios that integrate multiple events and/or echelons.
Signal Soldiers may also leverage Signal University for specific MOS training. Signal University is designed to promote self-reliance through high-quality, cost-effective, computer-based training curricula. Located at 11 installations inside and outside the United States, Signal University provided more than 600 courses to Soldiers and helped more than 2,300 Soldiers obtain commercial information technology certifications in FY13.
Signal University staff also work to connect Soldiers to applicable training available within the Army, across DOD and through commercial or private institutions such as local community colleges. The curriculum focuses on:
- Local area networks—Microsoft products, VMware, information assurance and Battle Command Common Services administration.
- Wide area networks—Cisco, Juniper, Warfighter Information Network – Tactical (WIN-T) network operations, WIN-T-focused basic routing and Voice over Internet Protocol.
- Transmission—Tactical radios, WIN-T transmission products and fiber transmission.
FIELD SUPPORT OF THE FUTURE
The C4ISR CoE Field Support Integrated Product Team (IPT) recently began the multiyear implementation process at posts, camps and stations. The process will start with III Corps units, followed by I Corps and then XVIII Airborne Corps. In each instance, the IPT will apply a consistent, three-phase approach to implementation: corps- and division-level planning (approximately two months); Soldier training and preparation (approximately four months); and program implementation (approximately six months). That schedule is subject to change depending on division-by-division success with each phase.
Concurrently, the C4ISR CoE, along with FORSCOM and TRADOC, will continue to work with units to integrate and prioritize necessary training as part of implementation. It also will leverage NTC and JRTC training exercises in FY15 to validate the field support footprint after the first implementation cycle.
The C4ISR field support structure of the future will serve as a model for Armywide implementation and will support a number of enterprise-level priorities as it reenergizes the Army’s organic field support capabilities. It is expected to reduce costs at combat training centers and home station training exercises by 40 percent annually.
Furthermore, combining training with a deliberate implementation will bolster the Army’s organic resources and further strengthen C4ISR field support capabilities over time, while investing in the Army’s most important asset—its Soldiers.
For more information, contact the author at the CECOM Logistics and Readiness Center’s Field Support Directorate, 443-861-6218 or email@example.com.
MAJ. ROBERT C. MOYER serves as the military deputy for CECOM’s Field Support Directorate within CECOM’s Logistics and Readiness Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He has an M.A. in information technology management from Webster University and a B.S. in criminal justice from North Georgia College and State University. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
This article was originally published in the July – September 2014 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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