Simplifying SATCOM

By May 30, 2017August 31st, 2018Acquisition, Army ALT Magazine
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T2C2: Reducing complexity and providing proper training enable unit-sustained systems.

by Maj. Jonathan Lipscomb

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Adequately training units to operate, maintain and sustain their own systems is the cornerstone of the Army’s push to reduce its heavy reliance on contracted field service representative (FSR) support and to improve unit readiness.

The sustainment strategy for the Army’s new early entry tactical network capability, Transportable Tactical Command Communications (T2C2), takes this saying to heart, and calls for this new program of record (POR) to be fully operated, supported and maintained by the unit, without the need for FSRs.

Because of its simple design, even Soldiers without previous signal experience can learn how to operate and maintain this unique inflatable satellite communications (SATCOM) system with minimal training. Additionally, collaboration across Army acquisition organizations is helping units learn how to sustain the systems on their own.

In early 2000, during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan, the Army rapidly fielded advanced network capability to keep up with the pace of battle. To support such quick reaction, the service was forced to rely heavily on contracted FSR support, project manager (PM) assistance and industry supported depots to ensure Soldiers could operate and maintain all of the new technologies flooding the battlefield.

Since that time, a more constrained fiscal environment has motivated the Army to move away from expensive external support toward a more organic sustainment model where units are accountable for systems.Project Manager Warfighter Information Network – Tactical (PM WIN-T), which manages the Army’s tactical network, and its parent organization, the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications – Tactical (PEO C3T), have been leaders in the Army’s quest to reduce FSR support. Since FY13, PEO C3T has reduced its reliance on FSRs by over 75 percent and plans to eliminate an additional 50 percent by FY19.

In support of these efforts, PM WIN-T’s sustainment plan for T2C2 calls for the system to be fully operated, supported and maintained by the unit. The unit also will be accountable for its own maintenance and spares, a procedure made possible by the system’s simple design and ease of use.

A Soldier from the 4th Infantry BCT (Airborne) sets up a WIN-T T2C2 Lite satellite terminal during the March pilot phase of the T2C2 operational test. T2C2 will be owned, repaired sustained by the units who operate it—with reachback support available from CECOM logistics assistance representatives, and depot-level maintenance available for major issues. (Photo by Amy Walker, PEO C3T Public Affairs)

FROSTY EVAL
A Soldier from the 4th Infantry BCT (Airborne) sets up a WIN-T T2C2 Lite satellite terminal during the March pilot phase of the T2C2 operational test. T2C2 will be owned, repaired sustained by the units who operate it—with reachback support available from CECOM logistics assistance representatives, and depot-level maintenance available for major issues. (Photo by Amy Walker, PEO C3T Public Affairs)

T2C2 has proven to be easy for general purpose users to set up, operate, navigate to enter various tactical networks and troubleshoot after just a couple of weeks of training. The system may look like a giant beach ball, but it provides robust expeditionary early-entry and remote edge-of-the-battlefield mission command via the Army’s tactical network.

T2C2 Heavy and Lite variants are inflatable, providing units with a larger antenna with increased capability and bandwidth efficiency in half the size of current solutions. These resilient SATCOM terminals can withstand extreme weather conditions and even air drops.

The Army successfully conducted the initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) of its inflatable T2C2 satellite communications terminal in March, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, amid temperatures dipping below minus 10 degrees. Putting the system through an operational test, and the many required precursor IOT&E risk reduction events, ensures it is ready for fielding and that units will be able to successfully operate, maintain and sustain the system once they own it.

TEACHING THE UNIT TO FISH

Months before the IOT&E, PM WIN-T, in conjunction with Training and Doctrine Command; Communications-Electronics Command Life Cycle Management Command (CECOM LCMC) and industry, conducted a Soldier-supported logistics demonstration to help further improve the system’s sustainment strategy. The logistics demonstration included full implementation and review of the training and technical manuals, which also provide step-by-step troubleshooting procedures. T2C2 also leverages the WIN-T Information Support Exchange portal to provide detailed technical procedures, the most recent updates to training materials and technical manuals, and community feeds on common troubleshooting approaches. Additionally, PM WIN-T is planning to implement interactive media instruction training materials to assist in train-the-trainer and refresher training.

Before the IOT&E, PM WIN-T provided new equipment training (NET) to the Soldiers supporting the test at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. When T2C2 is ready to officially field, units will receive NET as part of the standard fielding process.

“The T2C2 training was outstanding; they really teach you the system so you know the ins and outs of it,” said Sgt. Corey Farthing, automation noncommissioned officer for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 25th Infantry Division (4/25). “It’s not just ‘push the button because I said so;’ you understand what happens when you do this and how to fix it because of that. And the technical manual is step by step. There are flow charts that talk you through. I don’t think we found one thing yet that we haven’t been able to fix through the manual.”

Soldiers from the 4th Infantry BCT (Airborne), 4/25, prepare for the March WIN-T T2C2 operational test at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The satellite communications system connects units at the edge of the battlefield to the Army’s tactical network. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Pedro Garcia Bibian, 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera))

TACTICAL COMMO
Soldiers from the 4th Infantry BCT (Airborne), 4/25, prepare for the March WIN-T T2C2 operational test at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The satellite communications system connects units at the edge of the battlefield to the Army’s tactical network. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Pedro Garcia Bibian, 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera))

Both the T2C2 Heavy and Lite variants will support early-entry combat operations. Additionally, T2C2 Heavy will support company-size forward operating bases, and T2C2 Lite will be fielded to special team-size elements, such as combat camera and human intelligence teams, which require high-bandwidth network capability to send large data files like photos, geospatial imagery and video. Soldiers from combat camera, Army Alaska public affairs and human intelligence teams with no prior signal experience were among the Soldiers who successfully operated T2C2 during the IOT&E.

“It’s unbelievable that non-signal Soldiers with only two weeks of training are able to put these systems on the ground, acquire the satellite, put them into operation quickly, make voice and data calls, push products on their military intelligence systems and make mission,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Woody Scott, 4/25 ID network operations officer in charge during the operational test. “That says something incredible about how these systems are designed in their simplicity and the quality of the training that the Soldiers have received.”

Historically, keeping units well trained on often complex network equipment has been a challenge for the Army. Soldiers often rotate in and out of units, because of factors such as service advancements and mission requirements. Part of the solution to these ongoing training issues is to design new equipment (and modify legacy equipment) to be less complex, easier to operate, train and maintain, as is the case with T2C2. Because of T2C2’s simple design and ease of use, units that have received the initial PM-provided NET will easily be able to train Soldiers who rotate into the unit.

4th Infantry BCT (Airborne) Soldiers work with the T2C2 SATCOM terminal at night at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in March. The inflatable terminal offers connectivity in remote locations at half the weight of current systems. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Pedro Garcia Bibian, 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera))

NOCTURNAL SHIFT
4th Infantry BCT (Airborne) Soldiers work with the T2C2 SATCOM terminal at night at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in March. The inflatable terminal offers connectivity in remote locations at half the weight of current systems. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Pedro Garcia Bibian, 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera))

The goal of the T2C2 system sustainment package is to enable units to fully support the system, which will achieve significant efficiencies in both time and cost for the Army. The PM WIN-T T2C2 team worked hand in hand with CECOM LCMC early in the acquisition process to map out the system sustainment package, including training, to ensure that units could be accountable for their own T2C2 systems. The T2C2 training strategy includes an important role for CECOM logistics assistance representatives (LARs), who will help train, advise and assist units in lieu of FSR support.

“When things work well for a POR, you will find that early on there was a partnership between the PM and the LCMC community,” said Bill Flynn, CECOM LCMC trail boss for U.S. Army Alaska Field Support Battalion. Trail bosses are CECOM’s face to the field, who serve as a vital link between operational units and the many government and industry stakeholders that provide capabilities to the unit. They help ensure proper training and equipment is in place and conduct end-to-end integration and planning to successfully execute events such as the T2C2 IOT&E.

“LARs will provide the training, mentorship and support needed when the unit becomes fully accountable for its T2C2 systems. They will provide the continuity and cohesiveness units need as their Soldiers transition in and out of the mission.”

MAINTAINING THE FISHING POLE

Maintenance is an important part of the T2C2 sustainment plan, to enable units to be fully accountable for their systems. In accordance with the T2C2 Life Cycle Sustainment Plan, the system will be sustained using two-level maintenance—with the unit, not contracted field support representatives, forward, fixing its own equipment first. When issues exceed unit capability, the systems will be sent out for depot-level support.

“You don’t have to be too savvy on how to change out parts and fix the system,” Farthing said. “If we do have to change a part that breaks, it’s super easy on this system, whether it be on the baseband side or the antenna side. T2C2 is simple, definitely user-friendly.”

Soldiers use the technical manual to troubleshoot procedures to correct faults inflicted on their system as part of the March test at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Early feedback indicates that non-specialist users can easily set up the terminals, use the system to access the tactical network, and troubleshoot issues using the manual. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Pedro Garcia Bibian, 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera))

BY THE BOOK
Soldiers use the technical manual to troubleshoot procedures to correct faults inflicted on their system as part of the March test at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Early feedback indicates that non-specialist users can easily set up the terminals, use the system to access the tactical network, and troubleshoot issues using the manual. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Pedro Garcia Bibian, 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera))

Contractor support will be used until the depot-level support for sustainment maintenance is in place. Product Manager SATCOM intends to fully use the Standard Army Supply System when parts exceed their one-year warranty, as soon as parts are on the shelf and contracts for procurement and repair of spares are in place.

In addition to having LARs support, CECOM trail bosses, located at every Army division headquarters, will provide units with additional logistics support. Trail bosses have an extensive network of contacts and can assist units in locating the right people and resources to most effectively and efficiently resolve maintenance and other sustainment challenges.

“I don’t have to know how to fix it; I have a very full Rolodex, I know who to call,” Flynn said. “Trail bosses have great reachback. We are like orchestra conductors or street cops: if there is an issue, we will find the solution to the problem.”

CONCLUSION

Changing the training and sustainment paradigm to enable units to be more self-sufficient when it comes to their equipment on the battlefield will help the Army in its quest to reduce FSR support, while reducing system down time. The T2C2 program can be used as a model for other evolving programs with similar goals. The system is easy to operate, train and maintain by general purpose users. Additionally, the T2C2 team coordinated with key players early in the acquisition process to ensure training and sustainment strategies were optimal and would contribute to the success of each unit. Returning to basics and putting sustainment responsibilities back into the hands of units—as it was before OIF and OEF—will enable units to more effectively operate the systems, manage their own property, repair issues quickly and increase the readiness of the force.

For more information, go to the PEO C3T website at http://peoc3t.army.mil/c3t/ , the PM WIN-T website at http://peoc3t.army.mil/wint/, or contact the PEO C3T Public Affairs Office at 443-395-6489 or usarmy.APG.peo-c3t.mbx.pao-peoc3t@mail.mil.

Soldiers from the 4th Infantry BCT (Airborne), 4/25, train in February for the March WIN-T T2C2 operational test at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The test and evaluation process prepared the project management team to, among other things, field a system that any unit could maintain on its own, without relying on expensive contractors. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Pedro Garcia Bibian, 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera))

COLD TRAINING
Soldiers from the 4th Infantry BCT (Airborne), 4/25, train in February for the March WIN-T T2C2 operational test at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. The test and evaluation process prepared the project management team to, among other things, field a system that any unit could maintain on its own, without relying on expensive contractors. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Pedro Garcia Bibian, 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera))


MAJ. JONATHAN LIPSCOMB is the assistant product manager for T2C2 SATCOM. He holds an MBA with a focus on acquisition and contract management from the Naval Postgraduate School and a B.S. in forestry from Virginia Tech. He is Level II certified in program management.

This article is scheduled to be published in the July-September 2017 issue of Army AL&T Magazine.

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ONLINE EXTRA

Transportable Tactical Command Communications

“It Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Connectivity,” Army AL&T, April – June 2016