Field support training takes on a system-of-systems approach

CERDEC and PEO C3T engineers supporting the assessment were instrumental in identifying and helping to resolve issues with the CS 13 network architecture and providing recommendations on techniques and procedures for successful deployment and operation of CS 13 equipment and network.

CERDEC and PEO C3T engineers supporting the assessment were instrumental in identifying and helping to resolve issues with the CS 13 network architecture and providing recommendations on techniques and procedures for successful deployment and operation of CS 13 equipment and network. (U.S. Army photo)

Training and preparing for Capability Set 13

By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, PEO C3T and Edric Thompson, CERDEC Public Affairs

As the first units recently prepared for deployment with an array of new communications technologies, the Army’s acquisition and research and development communities teamed up to train a new breed of “super” engineers to support these advanced capabilities.

The Program Executive Office Command Control and Communications-Tactical and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center used a combination of classroom instruction, research facility exercises and hands-on experience to prepare more than 30 engineers to support and troubleshoot an integrated package of tactical communications systems the Army fielded to select brigade combat teams known as Capability Set 13. The team also trained units on how to configure, employ and maintain it.

The brigade combat teams using CS 13 have deployed or are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. CS 13 spans from the tactical operations center to the dismounted Soldier, providing mobile satellite and robust radio capability so commanders and Soldiers can take the network with them anywhere on the battlefield. It allows deployed units to cover increased distance while expediting decision-making and information sharing across more echelons than was previously possible in today’s operational force.

PEO C3T and CERDEC developed a systematic approach to support the Army’s shift to a system-of-systems network that is integrated across the brigade combat team formation.

“We can no longer afford to live in a system-specific, stove pipe construct; you need a holistic understanding of the network architecture and how tactical communications capabilities work together or affect each other,” said Joseph Chen, a CERDEC PD C4ISR & Network Modernization system-of-systems engineer supporting the training. “If you’re going to be in the field supporting a unit, you need to know how to integrate and troubleshoot systems to ensure that they interoperate.”

The May and November 2013 sessions at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., stressed an understanding of CS 13 capabilities and architecture, a base system­of-systems understanding, methodologies, significant findings from previous CS 13 assessments and the way forward for continued support and resourcing for future CS fieldings.

The engineers also got crucial hands-on experience with CS 13 equipped vehicles at CERDEC’s field laboratories located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., where PD C4ISR Network Modernization stood up a comprehensive portion of the CS 13 BCT architecture in its deployed configuration, including Warfighter Information Network-Tactical – or WIN-T – Increment 2 communications nodes, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected – or MRAP – variant Key Leader Vehicles, voice and data radio networks, and Nett Warrior handheld devices.

“As a digital systems engineer, we kind of sit above and look at all the systems to make sure they’re talking to each other and working properly,” said Jeff Bierman, lead Digital Systems Engineer for the East Regional Support Center with PEO C3T. “If there are issues between the different systems, then we work to coordinate with different field service representatives and project managers. But this was the first time we’ve ever had formal training on the capabilities as a whole. The training allowed us to see the equipment, touch the equipment and become knowledgeable on the equipment.”

CERDEC’s PD C4ISR & Network Modernization played a pivotal role throughout the CS 13 network verification process, providing facilities and infrastructure to enable the assessment and serving as the assessment director and executor for CS 13 vehicles.

CERDEC and PEO C3T engineers supporting the assessment were instrumental in identifying and helping to resolve issues with the CS 13 network architecture and providing recommendations on techniques and procedures for successful deployment and operation of CS 13 equipment and network.

“Time is of the essence in the field, so it’s paramount to share lessons-learned with those who are going to support these systems. But that’s not always enough,” said Dax Cadet, a CERDEC PD C4ISR and Network Modernization system-of-systems engineer supporting the training. “Knowing how a system is supposed to work and actually working on a system of systems are different things. Our goal is to provide these Subject Matter Experts with the opportunity to get their hands dirty, so to speak, with CS 13 – to troubleshoot equipment and resolve technical issues prior to deploying.”

Designed for testing and solution proving in a realistic field environment, PD C4ISR and Network Modernization focuses on the future network, near term and several years out, providing the Army with a relevant venue to assess next generation technologies and to facilitate technology maturation and transition in a system-of­systems context.
PD C4ISR and Network Modernization will continue to provide the venue and expertise to ensure prioritized S&T efforts are mature and are a viable solution for transition to the PM and PEOs, Chen said.

“If we are to ensure that emerging products from the S&T community provide increased capabilities, they will need to be assessed in a relevant environment on representative platforms,” Chen said. “We’ve got a unique infrastructure that allows us to draw out the battlefield for the current and future fight, and we’re leveraging these capabilities, along with our in-house SoS expertise, to help the S&T community mitigate risk. Having these vehicles will be great opportunity for the S&T community to continue learning and building system-of-systems knowledge.”

With two CS 13-equipped BCTs of the 10th Mountain Division deployed to Afghanistan and two from the 101st Airborne Division preparing for deployment, PEO C3T is now working to put forward a formalized training Program of Instruction for engineers as more units are fielded with the follow-on CS 14. The units themselves are also now receiving new SoS training PEO C3T developed based on feedback from the 10th Mountain Division. The new curriculum uses a ‘train the trainer’ method to give Signal Soldiers and select leaders more time to become confident on all the system pieces and increase brigade awareness of CS 13 capability.

“The reality now is that everything is integrated. To have one person go and look at the vehicle and be able to troubleshoot it as a whole, we don’t have that today,” said Chad Claussen, network integration branch chief for PEO C3T TMD. “That’s what we’re trying to get to. We want to put them in a better position to understand how everything ties together.”

CERDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness — technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment — to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.