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Futures Command‘s 2018 Modernization Stories

Saturday, December 29th, 2018

FORT MEADE, Md. — The Army has initiated many changes to help modernize the service, bolster readiness, and increase lethality.

Below is a list of some of the biggest modernization stories that impacted the force in 2018. (Links to the original stories follow this article.)


In July, senior leaders announced that Austin, Texas would be the new home for Army Futures Command.

Selected from about 150 competing locations, Austin offered a growing community of professionals within the science and tech industries. Further, the city hosted academic institutions with thousands of graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Back in October 2017, the Army announced its intent to create a new command to drive the service’s modernization efforts. Army Futures Command was heralded as one of the most significant Army reorganization efforts since 1973.

In August, Army senior leaders converged in Austin to unveil AFC’s new headquarters in the University of Texas System building.

During the assumption of command ceremony, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley unfurled and presented the Army Futures Command flag to Gen. Mike Murray, the newly-appointed AFC commander.

Closing out the year, AFC unveiled its new “golden anvil” shoulder sleeve insignia and distinctive unit insignia, harkening back to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms.


Army leaders recently released “The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028,” which outlines possible solutions to counter and defeat layers of stand-off created by adversaries.

Referred to as MDO Concept 1.5, the new pamphlet published by U.S. Training and Doctrine Command refines the force’s Multi-Domain Battle concept released last year.

The concept asserts that over the years adversaries have studied how the U.S. military operates. Emerging technologies — such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics, machine learning, nanotechnology, and robotics — have also changed the character of war.

The release of TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1 serves as a first step in the force’s doctrinal evolution, officials said.


This fall, the Army began fielding the new Squad Designated Marksman Rifle to the first selected units. A limited-user test of the SDM-R is also underway now at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The rifle is based on the Heckler and Koch G28E-110 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System, or CSASS, and provides infantry, scout, and engineer squads the capability to engage with accurate rifle fire at longer ranges.

Additionally, this year the Army tested a new binocular with a wireless connection to rifle sites. The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular, or ENVG-B, is scheduled for release to selected units sometime in fiscal year 2019.

The new device has both night vision and thermal-sensing capabilities and stereoscopic binocular depth perception, providing Soldiers with an illusion of depth on a flat image.

During testing, Soldiers had a 100 percent improvement in weapons qualifications, along with a 300 percent increase in detection of targets in day and night environments, and a 30 to 50 percent decrease in the time taken to shoot a target.

Soldiers that tested the new ENVG-B considered it to be “a game changer.”


The Army is working to replace its current Flame Resistant Ghillie System, which Soldiers consider to be bulky and somewhat uncomfortable at higher temperatures.

The new Improved Ghillie System will be modular and may be worn over a Soldier’s field uniform. Soldiers should be able to take apart the IGS and use pieces as needed.

The goal is for the IGS to cost less than the current $1,300 FRGS, and still have flame-resistant properties.


The Army is working to develop unique hypersonic weapons, similar to precision technology currently in development by the Air Force and Navy.

Hypersonic weapons move five times faster than the speed of sound and are designed to potentially deliver a precision-guided airstrike anywhere in the world within an hour.

While the Army establishes its hypersonic program office, representatives from the Army and other services will continue to work together to develop the military’s hypersonic weapons capability.

Currently, the joint team is working to create a standard “hypersonic glide body” to provide a means to deploy a hypersonic weapon.


Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper recently approved the new Intellectual Property Management Policy to support the force’s readiness and modernization efforts.

Before the new policy, the Army lacked a coordinated strategy to secure IP rights and fulfill its long-term sustainment goals. Previous examples of the acquisition process have shown that the Army often requests either too little, or too much IP.

The new policy attempts to kick off a cultural change within the Army and create a proactive approach to IP management and acquisition.


The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center revealed 15 Soldier-vetted technologies this year designed to improve command post capabilities.

For the past three years, CERDEC’s expeditionary Mission Command Science and Technology Objective has worked to improve command post infrastructure.

Overall, the new technologies will make it quicker and easier for Soldiers to both setup and tear down a command post and will help improve command post connectivity, agility, and scalability.


In the future, the Army could employ artificial intelligence to help process and simplify information, augment current or future systems, or enhance an operator or commander’s decision-making process.

Although the employment of artificial intelligence is still in its infancy, AI could aid Soldiers on the battlefield by providing leap-ahead technologies to help the force survive and win, according to Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville.

For example, AI capabilities could control robotic loader and firing mechanisms or provide targeting recognition capabilities to support Soldiers in ground combat. Further, AI could help determine the best time to perform maintenance or replace parts.

Overall, AI is one of the Department of Defense’s top priorities. The development and implementation of AI will be a critical component of other DOD priorities such as hypersonic weapons, and autonomous ground and air unmanned systems.


The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center has been experimenting with neurostimulation at the Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Medford, Massachusetts.

Volunteers in the program have shown an increase in ability or attention span, improved navigation performance, or enhanced motor skills when participating in a series of controlled tasks within a testing environment.

Further, Soldier participating in the program shortly after initial-entry training have shown signs of accelerated learning. This increase in learning has the potential of closing the gap between low and high performers on specific tasks.


Strengthening the Army’s network against increasing cyber threats, all while making it accessible across each level of the Army, has become a crucial point of emphasis for Army leaders.

With network modernization as a top priority, the Army has set initiatives to develop an integrated network to win battles in peer-contested environments and work toward joint coalition interoperability.

Moving forward, the Army plans to scale the integrated network to brigade-sized formations. The service will start fielding formations in 2020.

By Devon L. Suits, Army News Service

Grenzschutzgruppe 9

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (GSG 9) (English: Border Protection Group 9) is the German federal law enforcement unit responsible for counterterrorism.

AFSOC Combat Aviation Advisors

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018

USAF MSgt Joseph Kimbrell, a Combat Aviation Advisor with the 5th Special Operations Squadron, prepares to load a motorcycle onto a C-145A “Combat Coyote” for a training mission.

The C-145A is capable of moving non-standard cargo into remote locations, usually inaccessible by larger, more traditional cargo aircraft.

Joint Communications Support Element Provides Support To Global Response Force

Friday, December 21st, 2018

CHITOSE, Japan — Whether on a hill, in a dale or on a dusty trail, battlefield communications are essential to every service member no matter their location. Be it the individual service member in the field to the pilot flying the jet, the ability to communicate clearly and concisely is extremely important during times of conflict.

Not doing so could be the difference between life or death.

IC1 Jonathan Kelly and IC1, 1st Squadron, Joint Communications Support Element check a communications satallite dish on Camp Higashi-Chitose, Japan during exercise Yama Sakura, Dec. 12, 2018

As communication technologies advance and the tools used to intercept these technologies grow more elaborate, the need for proper battlefield-communications techniques becomes evermore important

Established units have specific processes already in place to meet their communications needs, however, when it comes to deploying units to locations lacking an established communication framework, many call upon outside agencies to supplement these needs.

One team commanders call on to do this is the Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE), part of Joint Enabling Capabilities Command (JECC), which falls under the U.S. Transportation Command and provides mission-specific, joint capabilities to combatant commanders needed to facilitate accelerated establishment of joint force headquarters, fulfill Global Response Force execution and bridge joint operational requirements.

“What sets us apart here at the JCSE, is that we provide an essential skill set that allows commands to work efficiently and effectively until they are able to bring up their own capabilities in order to sustain themselves,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Jonathan L. Kelly, 1st Joint Communications Squadron Team Chief.

Comprised of both an active and reserve components – of three active duty squadrons, two Air-National Guard squadrons and one Army reserve squadron – the JCSE enables both tactical and strategic communications. This is done by providing rapidly deployable, scalable, en-route and early-entry communications capabilities across the full gamut of operations enabling increased action of the joint force in support of the 10 combatant commands, special operations commands and other agencies, as directed.

“We are the embodiment of the total force and for this reason our units routinely exercise and deploy together, making for an effective team capable of meeting a wide range of mission-critical demands and tasks,” said Kelly.

At the heart of the unit’s core competency is its communications support for contingency operations. Using the latest technologies, JCSE is a tactical unit with the ability to operate at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. In addition, the element has the skill sets needed to support broader Joint Task Force operations ranging anywhere from 40 to 1500 network users.

“Here at the JCSE, we use the latest technologies in order to meet today’s operational requirements while also keeping up with the units’ wide-range mission requirements,” said Kelly. “We ensure our members are well trained communicators ready to deploy at any given moment.”

Today, the element has service members deployed to locations all around the world, covering a wide range of missions, including a team currently deployed to Higashi-Chitose, Japan, supporting exercise Yama Sakura 75.

Yama Sakura is an annual bilateral exercise involving the U.S. Military and the JGSDF with the purpose of enhancing U.S. and Japanese combat readiness and interoperability while strengthening relationships and demonstrating U.S. resolve to support the security interests of allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Just as in other exercises, the JCSE team at Yama Sakura, used their expertise to provide the real world capability for both NIPR and SIPR communications requirements, to support simulated battlefield communications.

By Petty Officer 1st Class Kiona Miller

UF PRO – Warrior Challenge 2018 videos

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

During Warrior Challenge 2018, Operators from 11 different units push themselves to the limit in the Annual Border Guards competition held in Latvia. To see them in action and how they did it, watch these two videos.

US Army Futures Command Unveils New Insignia

Monday, December 10th, 2018

FORT MEADE, Md. — The Army Futures Command now officially has a shoulder sleeve insignia and distinctive unit insignia that its Soldiers will wear while they work toward modernizing the Army.

With a golden anvil as its main symbol, the shoulder patch and unit insignia are a nod to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms that used a blue-colored anvil.

The command’s motto “Forge the Future” is also displayed below the anvil on the unit insignia, while both the patch and unit insignia have black and white stripes stretching outward from the anvil.

“Symbols mean things just like words do,” said Robert Mages, the command’s acting historian. “It’s a reminder to the Soldiers that wear the patch of the mission that they’ve been assigned and of the responsibilities that come with that mission.”

A patch ceremony is expected to take place Friday during the transfer of authority of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, ARCIC, to the Army’s newest major command.

Since last year, the four-star command has been at the heart of the most significant Army reorganization effort since 1973.

In July, senior leaders picked Austin, Texas, for the AFC headquarters. Cross-Functional Teams were also stood up within the command to tackle the Army’s six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and Soldier lethality.

The patch and unit insignia represent the command’s most recent move toward full operational capability, which is expected next summer.

Andrew Wilson, a heraldic artist at The Institute of Heraldry at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, worked with command leadership since last December to finalize the designs.

“This is something that is supposed to stand the test of time and just to play a part in it, it’s an honor,” he said.

The main piece — the anvil — is meant to represent fortitude, determination and perseverance. The black, white and gold resemble the colors of the U.S. Army.

Wilson said he got the idea for the anvil during a design meeting that mentioned the command’s new motto — Forge the Future.

Wilson, who once took a blacksmithing course in college, was immediately reminded of reshaping metals on an anvil.

“Taking away from the meeting, I tried to come up with something that would play off of that,” he said. “The first thing that popped in my head with ‘forge’ was blacksmithing and one of the key features of that is an anvil.”

Once he spoke of his idea, Charles Mugno, the institute’s director, then advised him to look at the anvil used in Eisenhower’s coat of arms.

“And from there the spark of creativity just took off,” Wilson said.

The Institute of Heraldry was also involved in the organizational identity of the Security Forces Assistance Brigades, one of which just completed its first deployment to Afghanistan.

“Whenever you have a new Army unit, you do end up doing a heraldic package of shoulder sleeve insignia, distinctive unit insignia and organizational colors,” Mugno said.

Heraldic conventions, he added, is a time-honored process that dates back to the 12th century.

With a staff of about 20 personnel, the institute also helps create the identity of other federal government agencies. Most notably is the presidential seal and coat of arms.

“We have a very unique mission,” Mugno said. “We all share a sense of honor and purpose in being able to design national symbolism for the entire federal government.”

Until the new patch was created, Soldiers in Army Futures Command wore a variety of patches on their sleeves. Those assigned to ARCIC, for instance, wore the Army Training and Doctrine Command patch and those in research laboratories had the Army Materiel Command patch.

Now, the golden anvil has forged them all together.

“It’s a symbol of unity — unity of effort, unity of command,” said Mages, the historian. “We no longer report to separate four-star commanders. We now report to one commander whose sole focus is the modernization of our Army.”

By Sean Kimmons, Army News Service

Defense Threat Reduction Agency Conducts Drill With Senegalese National Military Fire Brigade

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

DTRA’s CBRN Preparedness Program (CP2) recently sponsored an event, in coordination with the Ambassade des Etats-Unis au Senegal (U.S. Embassy in Senegal), and the Senegalese National Military Fire Brigade to partner and build the knowledge and ability of Senegal’s medical professionals in planning for, responding to, and mitigating the consequences of a CBRN disaster.

US Military Services, 10 Countries Compete in 18th Annual International Sniper Competition

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

FORT BENNING, Ga. — The 18th annual International Sniper Competition opened at Fort Benning, Georgia, during a ceremony at the Sniper Compound Oct. 15.

The event brings 30 two-person teams from across the Army, Department of Defense, civilian law enforcement agencies, and around the world to determine who are the best two-person sniper teams globally.

Thirty sniper teams run toward their equipment at the opening of the 18th annual International Sniper Competition, Fort Benning, Ga. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)

Col. J. Frederick Dente, U.S. Army 316th Cavalry Brigade commander, spoke during the opening ceremony.

“I know that you’re ready,” said Dente to the assembled teams. “You’ve been issued your equipment, been briefed on the course of the competition, and I know that for each of you, today is the culmination of weeks and months of hard training and preparation.”

This year, 10 teams represent the countries of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom. U.S. military services are represented by teams from the Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force. One team is joint service with both a Sailor and a Soldier. A team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation is representing civilian law enforcement.

Thirty sniper teams run toward their equipment at the opening of the 18th annual International Sniper Competition, Fort Benning, Ga. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)

“Today is a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet your peers,” said Dente. “I know that they are your competitors this week, but in a larger sense, they are your comrades in arms, they are your allies and your partners. And when we leave the field of friendly strife on Friday, they will be the men that fight alongside you in the first battle of the next war.”

The two-man teams lined up next to a digital timer behind a red line. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the teams were to begin their first event, a simulation where they ran to a building, climbed the building and engaged a hostile target before the target killed a hostage.

Over the course of more than three days, beginning Oct. 15 and concluding Oct. 18, the teams are scheduled to compete in events that will test their abilities in long-range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance and reporting, and stealth movement.

“Push yourself, push your equipment, push your team to its limits, and then set a new standard,” said Dente. “Push yourself, so that each of us, whether in the front of the field of competitors or in the back of the pack, each of us leaves here better prepared to fight and win the nation’s wars in the unforgiving crucible of battle.”

By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (Benning)