Blackhawk!

Archive for the ‘Army’ Category

MOSA Expedites Army Modernization Efforts at Aviation, Missile Center

Saturday, January 15th, 2022

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — It’s more than just a buzzword — it’s the way of the future for Army aviation.

MOSA — modular open systems architecture (or approach) — has become a popular term in recent years in the defense community, but it’s something the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Joint Technology Center/System Integration Laboratory has worked on for years. That expertise and baseline is helping the DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center adapt technologies quickly, efficiently and at a lower cost to support Army modernization efforts.

“While it’s a new term today, for us it’s business as usual,” said Joe Reis, Multiple Unified Simulation Environment lead for the JSIL. “We’ve been striving for the last 10 years to try to break our software down into components so it can be reused. Wherever possible, we started adopting all these different standard protocols with the vision of being able to reuse those components and being able to integrate with more than just ourselves. With that we’re able to stretch into areas we never have before.”

At DEVCOM AvMC, the MOSA success story starts with MUSE — the Multiple Unified Simulation Environment — a command and staff trainer. Originally created to provide Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance simulation capabilities, today the government-developed and sustained MUSE software baseline is being used in a variety of systems, including advanced teaming, part of AvMC’s support to the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team. The JSIL works primarily with unmanned aircraft systems, to include Shadow, Gray Eagle, Reaper and Global Hawk.

“The MUSE baseline was the foundational software that we began with for the Advanced Teaming effort,” said JSIL Software Lead James Bowman III. “We’ve been modifying and enhancing the MUSE baseline for over 20 years, by incorporating customer capability requests, keeping pace with industry standards and maintaining an accreditation (Authority to Operate — ATO). It would not have been possible for the Army to constitute the capabilities inherent in MUSE in time to meet the needs of Army Futures Command.”

“We’ve leaped into this research and development field instead of just being a trainer, because of being able to break these components down,” Reis added.

For the AvMC team, that is the whole point of MOSA — delivering solutions expeditiously to the Army and the Warfighter.

“MOSA is taking a modular approach, and for us, that’s just not theoretical,” Bowman said. “Software modularity allows the teams to share components across our enterprise, thereby negating duplicative efforts. It is paramount that the government continue to address intelligent software design, since it is our responsibility to provide quality solutions to and for the Warfighter that are concurrently cost-optimal for the government.

“We work to ensure that there is an intentionality to identifying common capabilities, already resident in MUSE, in order to exploit for utilization in our UAS Trainer solutions. Obviously, if not properly implemented, there can be challenges with code synchronization. JSIL addresses this by adhering to industry standard software processes and by utilizing Azure DevOps to ensure solution integrity. Consequently, stove-pipe solutions are a thing of the past. Once a bug is fixed in a component, all software that utilizes that component inherits the benefits of the fix.”

Another MOSA success story is the JSIL’s support to the Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team. The Reconfigurable Virtual Collective Trainer-Air uses the MUSE baseline foundationally, merged with work the JSIL did for the Air Force, to create a UAS software baseline for the RVCT-A.

“We would not have been able to support the high op-tempo of the RVCT-A effort had we not leveraged and utilized this MOSA construct,” Bowman said. “We continue to be energized about the possibilities of utilizing the MUSE and collective decades of UAS modeling and simulation domain knowledge to address current and emerging requirements.”

What’s next for MOSA at AvMC? The JSIL team will support swarming unmanned aircraft systems, part of the work being done with Advanced Teaming and Air Launched Effects. That effort includes incorporating an Army Game Studio Image Generator, which will reduce the money spent for commercial off the shelf rendering engine licenses and maintenance fees, a price tag that runs over $1 million alone for one UAS variant.

“If we can take that million-dollar expenditure and invest it in an existing GOTS image generator, that cost just goes away,” Bowman said. “MOSA is not just some buzzword, in our view, the implementation thereof provides tangible evidence of how we save the Army money, and how we get solutions to the soldier expeditiously, because we’re constantly building on a pre-existing, well-vetted, foundation.”

AvMC supports a variety of partners with MOSA, to include Program Executive Office Aviation; PEO Simulation, Training and Instrumentation; the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation; PEO Intelligence Electronic Warfare & Sensors; and the FVL and Synthetic Training Environment CFTs.

“All of this work that we have done and are very proud of also has a global impact,” Bowman said. “We work with coalition partners, and because we adhere to these standards, when we show up to an exercise, not only are we operating our simulation, our coalition partners ask us at times to help them and we do that proudly. We’re U.S. citizens working with our coalition partners that are going to go to battle with us in the event that hostilities break out. We’re very proud to work with these standards to support not just the U.S., but its partners.”

By Amy Tolson, DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center Public Affairs

US Army’s New IVAS Allows Maximum Mission Awareness In-Transit

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

CAMP ROBERTS, Calif. — Mounted armored vehicles such as the Bradley have long been used as heavy weapons platforms with long range sensors to hunt targets and provide armored transportation to dismounted Soldiers. However, once onboard the vehicle, Soldiers lose visibility of what is happening around them, leaving them ill-prepared to anticipate the changing battlespace upon dismount.

In effort to provide situational awareness while Soldiers are in transport, a cross-enterprise Army team is working to incorporate Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) technology and sensors into vehicle platforms for optimal battlefield visibility at every stage of the mission. The goggle-based IVAS display integrates digital low-light, thermal night vision and high-resolution waveguide technology to create a mixed reality interface for the dismounted Soldier. Therefore, optimizing the system for Soldiers at every stage of a mission — including transport — is critical to ensuring success in future multi-domain operations.

To maximize the integration of IVAS to the Bradley platform specifically, the Army Platform Integration team, comprised of Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, PEO Ground Combat Systems and Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), executed a third Vehicle Excursion (VE3) test event at Camp Roberts, California in September 2021.

“The goal of platform integration, like the one demonstrated here on the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, is to not only ensure that Soldiers equipped with IVAS don’t lose their enhanced situational awareness while mounted, but to also take advantage of the on-board platform sensors that enable them to see what the combat vehicle sees,” said Maj. Shawn Jones, Platform Integration lead under PEO Soldier Project Manager IVAS.

Soldiers from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 2-7 Infantry Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia, came to test the capability and noticed that feeds from the current sensors were more accessible to each Soldier on the platform as they executed Improvised Explosive Device (IED) searches, reconnaissance and complex attack missions.

“The IVAS augmented reality system integrates communications, thermals and night vision to enhance our situational awareness and lethality from within the Bradley,” Pfc. Benjamin Franke said. “It allows everyone to see what the driver, commander and gunner are seeing outside, which gets more eyes-on and increases situational awareness immediately for when we dismount.”

While Soldiers can receive mission updates such as emerging intelligence, terrain and target locations while in transport, they also hope to use the physical advantages of the vehicle platform to maximize their effectiveness upon dismount.

“An individual Solider on ground sometimes has limited visibly of the enemy due to an obstructed line of sight,” said Sgt. 1st Class Darrell Borgic. “But the Bradley is taller and has better optic capability, so dismounts are able to leverage that to see targets while on the ground and make an informed tactical decision.”

“The system lets us get more eyes on our objective so we don’t miss anything, which keeps us all safer,” added Franke. “Some of the exercises required us to scan for IEDs, so having our dismounts onboard also be able to look for those has actually shown to make a difference in our mission success.”

The development of the integrated technology required teammates to reach across lanes of expertise and facilitate the integration of the new modern IVAS with the Bradley. Don Aldea, PM Mounted Armored Vehicles Mechanical and Systems Engineer and Lead Engineer for IVAS Integration, ensured Bradley and IVAS requirements were communicated and developed across the diverse teams.

“It all started when leadership came and asked, ‘When an IVAS-equipped Soldier hops onto a vehicle platform or a Bradley for transport, how do we maintain the connectivity and situational awareness they had on the ground so that combat advantage doesn’t stop just because they are now mounted and moving?’” Aldea said.

It was a complex problem set with requirements and kit that was not easily compatible, he said, but the team’s VE3 user study event was proof of concept that the capability is feasible and operationally delivers increased lethality and survivability. Aldea highlighted some of the main technical features of the system.

“When a Soldier walks into a Bradley wearing IVAS, they can do three main things: SEE, World View and power up,” he said. “We put in interfaces to power and charge their batteries, for SEE we cloned the feeds from the three existing sensors – front DVE [Drivers Vision Enhancer], driver’s CIV [Commander’s Independent Viewer] and gunner’s IBAS [Improved Bradley Acquisition Subsystem] – so the Soldiers can passively view what the Bradley sees through their IVAS HUD [heads up display]. We also integrated radios so we can use all the features of IVAS for a connected mission execution.”

Though Aldea is a systems engineer, he is passionate about the operational capability gap that IVAS mounted on a Bradley will address.

“When Soldiers come up to a position where they are getting ready to deploy outside of the vehicle — as of today they are going in mostly dark and blind,” Aldea explained. “With this integrated technology, they can get map, mission and intel updates enroute. They can see what is around them to strategically position the Bradley and then drop the ramp where they are not in direct fire and execute immediately.

“In World View, they can also know where their brother and sister platforms are, so they can work together, cover more ground and make informed decisions and ad hoc changes on the move all while buttoned up in the Bradley,” Aldea added.

1 / 3

SHOW CAPTION +

3rd Infantry Division Soldiers participate in Bradley Vehicle Excursion 3 test event with the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) prototype Capability Set 4 at Camp Roberts, Calif. in September 2021. (Photo Credit: Courtney Bacon)

VIEW ORIGINAL

2 / 3

SHOW CAPTION +

3rd Infantry Division Soldiers use the Blackhornet Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) during the Bradley Vehicle Excursion 3 test event with the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) prototype Capability Set 4 at Camp Roberts, Calif. in September 2021. (Photo Credit: Courtney Bacon)

VIEW ORIGINAL

3 / 3

SHOW CAPTION +

3rd Infantry Division Soldiers participate in Bradley Vehicle Excursion 3 test event with the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) prototype Capability Set 4 at Camp Roberts, Calif. in September 2021. (Photo Credit: Courtney Bacon)

VIEW ORIGINAL

The DEVCOM night vision lab was also a critical part of the integrated team’s work. Dr. Navin Mathur, IVAS Platform Integration Lead Engineer, explained how the increase in networked and visual accessibility delivers an enhanced solution to the problem set.

“Having a networked End-User Device (EUD), like IVAS on a Soldier in the back of a platform like a Bradley or Stryker becomes invaluable, but it is only part of the solution,” said Mathur. “Not only does the SEE feature allow entire crews to clear a large area within the safety of the vehicle instead of dismounting and being physically exposed, but the physical limitations of the Soldier and platform are significantly minimized through the additional integration of the Army Black Hornet UAS [unmanned aerial system]. The drone feeds into the IVAS HUD which allows visibility on areas that the platform and the dismount can’t physically cover.”

Another notable aspect is the delivery and integration of Soldier power into the vehicle platforms.

“The UBC [universal battery charger] integrated on the platform will reduce the need for Soldiers to carry extra CWBs [conformal wearable batteries] while dismounted on the objective and allow for easy resupply of fresh batteries while mounted,” Mathur said. “Even if the mission is extended, our Soldiers are still powered to execute.”

IVAS is being developed to efficiently deliver relevant mission information and operationally relevant tools to Soldiers at every stage of mission execution. The integration of the technology with platforms and drones extends the combat advantage of a single dismount beyond physical limitations.

“Together it gives the entire force better situational awareness and allows Soldiers to make more informed decisions before dismounting,” said Mathur. “There are no longer gaps in information between mounting, transit and dismounting, which will increase the survivability and lethality for both the platform and the Soldiers.”

The cross-enterprise Platform Integration team plans to conduct a user study with further IVAS integration to Stryker platforms in August 2022.

“This product has the potential to be a force multiplier,” said Franke. “It’ll help bring more vehicles, crews and dismounts home alive and I hope to be able to use it as it continues to develop in the future.”

By Courtney Bacon

AFC VERTEX | Energy Event Will Examine New, Advanced Energy Technologies

Monday, January 10th, 2022

Austin, Texas — On February 8-10, 2022, a group of founders, technologists, investors, and market experts will converge at VERTEX | Energy in Austin, Texas, to examine new and novel energy technologies that are attracting private and public sector investment. This three-day symposium, hosted by Army Futures Command (AFC), aims to shed light on cutting-edge commercial energy advancements that can also support U.S. Army modernization goals.

“As part of the FY22 budget, the DOD requested billions to invest in next-gen installation and operational energy technologies,” said Lt. Gen. Thomas Todd, Army Futures Command. “The Army is interested in the same energy technology that’s gaining traction in the commercial market and among private investors. It’s the only way we can stay ahead. So concentrating our market intelligence through this event will allow us — and allow participants from private industry — to get a look at these technologies firsthand.”

According to industry reports, in the past five years, “gov tech” companies raised nearly $2B in private investment, indicating major growth — and major opportunities — in the government market. In November 2021 alone, the federal System for Award Management listed more than 450 energy-related contract opportunities open with the US Army. The Army VERTEX | Energy event will help to inform future investments while also providing attendees with insight into the Army’s funding roadmap directly from the 4-Star Command that determines how and where the Army invests.

This approach is part of a critical AFC effort to ensure Army modernization efforts extend beyond materiel improvements. As part of its modernization plan, the Army wants to diversify and bring more startups and small companies into its portfolio of partners. Doing so at the speed of business will require modernization of formal acquisition processes as well as improvements to the business processes through which those organizations or technologies are discovered.

“The Army is great at gathering operational intelligence to support our missions, but we are less adept at capturing critical intelligence on what new technologies or companies are developing in the commercial market,” said Todd. “VERTEX | Energy is a way to up our game in that area — going beyond what we can discover online and really diving into the technology and how it can help to address some of our most pressing problems.”

Army VERTEX attendees will include personnel from across AFC as well as Army Program Executive Offices (PEOs) with a vested interest in these technologies. It will also include commercial technologists, founders, and market experts who can contribute to a meaningful dialogue on next-generation energy technologies.

While anyone can watch VERTEX sessions virtually via the AFC YouTube livestream, in-person participation will be limited to 150 industry participants per day. In-person attendees will be selected based on alignment between their expertise and critical Army energy use cases.

To learn more about the event or the technology areas that will be discussed, visit armyvertex.com.

By Army Futures Command, Acquisition & Systems

Official Army Press Release Regarding Next Generation Squad Weapons – Fire Control System Contract Award To Vortex Optics

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Army awards Next Generation Fire Control System agreement to Sheltered Wings Inc. d/b/a Vortex Optics

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. — The Army has awarded Sheltered Wings Inc. d/b/a Vortex Optics based in Barneveld, WI a 10-year firm fixed price, Follow-on Production Other Transaction Agreement (P-OTA) with a maximum ceiling value of $2.7 billion for production and delivery of up to 250,000 XM157 Next Generation Squad Weapons – Fire Control (NGSW-FC) systems over a ten-year period.

The NGSW-FC system is a ruggedized fire control that increases accuracy and lethality for the Close Combat Force. It integrates a number of advanced technologies including a variable magnification optic, backup etched reticle, laser rangefinder, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, compass, Intra-Soldier Wireless, visible and infrared aiming lasers, and a digital display overlay.

The agreement minimum is $20 million and provides the U.S. Government the ability to procure fire control systems, supporting accessories, spare parts, repairs, and engineering services, to include requirements for other Department of Defense Services and potential Foreign Military Sales.

The NGSW-FC will serve as the fire control for the Next Generation Squad Weapons – Rifle and Next Generation Squad Weapons – Automatic Rifle. The NGSW-FC is the planned replacement for the Close Combat Optic, Rifle Combat Optic, and Machine Gun Optic within the Close Combat Force (Infantry, Cavalry Scouts and Combat Engineers).

The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, is the contracting activity.

Vortex Optics Awarded Next Generation Squad Weapons – Fire Control (NGSW-FC) Follow-on Production Award, Other Transaction Agreement by US Army

Friday, January 7th, 2022

The U.S. Army Contracting Command – New Jersey (CC-NJ), on behalf of Project Manager – Soldier Lethality, awarded a fixed amount Follow-on Production, Other Transaction Agreement W15QKN-22-9-P0001, in accordance with 10 U.S.C. § 2371b(f) to Sheltered Wings, Inc. d/b/a Vortex Optics. The contract ceiling is $2,700,000,000.00.

The Next Generation Squad Weapons – Fire Control (NGSW-FC) Production Other Transaction Agreement will provide the U.S. Government the ability to procure fire controls, supporting accessories, contractor support, spare parts, repairs, and engineering efforts to support the National Defense Strategy, to include other Department of Defense Services and potential Foreign Military Sales. The NGSW-FC is the planned fire control for the Next Generation Squad Weapons – Rifle and Next Generation Squad Weapons – Automatic Rifle. The NGSW-FC is the planned replacement for the Close Combat Optic, Rifle Combat Optic, and Machine Gun Optic within the Close Combat Force.

Next up are the weapons.

MISINFORMATION: M17 Grip Module Replacement by Soldiers

Thursday, January 6th, 2022

BLUF: End user Soldiers ARE authorized to separate the receiver from the grip module.

Some folks read the -10 TM and conclude that Soldiers aren’t allowed to do this. Here’s what TM 9-1005-470-10, MHS Operator Manual says right up front in Work Package 16:

“Army only: To prevent damage to equipment, procedures in this work package should be performed by unit armorer.”

Contrast this with the Air Force guidance, which follows the above:

“Air Force only: Changing of the grip module will only be accomplished by Combat Arms qualified personnel with AFSC 3P0XXB, SEI 312, or properly qualified Civilian Equivalent Personnel.”

The source of this confusion is a general misunderstanding of key words and what they mean. Notice that the Army note uses “should,” and the Air Force note uses “will.”

Here’s the breakdown, and this applies to all Army official publications*:

“May” = Optional; acceptable means of accomplishment

“Should” = Optional; preferred method of accomplishment

“Will,” “must,” & “shall” = Non-optional; mandatory requirement

Also, the -10 Operator Manual provides 10-level operation and maintenance “with you, the user, in mind.” [from -10 TM “How to Use This Manual,” page v.] If it’s in the -10, you, the Soldier, are permitted to perform all procedures included in the TM…it’s a 10-level function, after all.

So, the bottom line is….

In the Army it’s recommended that unit armorers remove the receiver from the grip module, but not a requirement.

Meanwhile, in the Air Force the Combat Arms folks are the only ones authorized to do the same.

*Some, but not all, doctrinal references provide these definitions within the publication.

By SSG Ian Tashima, CAARNG Asst State Marksmanship Coordinator

US, Ukrainian Infantry Soldiers Connect at Combined Resolve XVI in Germany

Monday, January 3rd, 2022

HOHENFELS, Germany — On the snow-covered hills of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, U.S. and Ukrainian soldiers solidified their partnership through more ways than just combat training.

Combined Resolve XVI was an exercise to evaluate the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division’s ability to conduct operations in a complex, multi-domain simulated battlespace.

Combined Resolve included approximately 4,600 soldiers from Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States.

Integrated battalions conducted operations with multinational units operating under a unified command and control element, allowing the U.S. and its allies and partners to experience invaluable training alongside each other.

“It’s very different and new for our company to participate in this kind of training,” said 1st Lt. Andrii Tretiak, commander of the Ukrainian Mechanized Company, 92nd Mechanized Brigade. “I think that our company gained new experiences during this training exercise.”

While the overall goal of Combined Resolve was for the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team to get a better feel of its battle rhythm, it creates an environment for multinational soldiers to come together and fight and win as one.

“We’re all out here living together,” said Pfc. Dawson Anderson, a forward observer with 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. “When it’s too cold, we’re all huddled around little camp stoves trying to make some hot coffee. That’s when you start to realize that people across the globe aren’t so much different than you.”

Finding common ground among multiple militaries creates ties that are harder to break than seeing each other in passing. When the smoke clears and everyone makes their way home again, soldiers get to leave with a sense of having developed life-long friendships.

“CBR XVI allows us to build mutual trust, competency and interoperability with our NATO allies and partners,” said Polish Maj. Gen. Adam Joks, Deputy Commander of Interoperability, V Corps. “By conducting combined operations with our allies, our soldiers learn how to work together effectively and efficiently to achieve tactical objectives.”

During the field exercises, every soldier in every uniform played a key role in mission success, coming together and facing a common goal builds team confidence on another level.

“It’s not always about the training and shooting and maneuvering,” Dawson said. “It’s also about seeing different kinds of people and understanding different walks of life.”

Through snow storms and bitter cold, soldiers found ways to coincide. Going through these exercises together on a daily basis builds cohesion that may look different or speak another language but assures continuity if ever faced with opposition.

Story by SGT Tommie Berry

Photos by photo by Ukrainian Army Col Sergii Teliatytskii and US Army SSG George Davis

Army Software Factory’s Second Cohort Gears Up for Phase 2 of Program

Sunday, January 2nd, 2022

AUSTIN, Texas — The Army Software Factory, the Army’s newly launched effort to train a select cadre of Soldiers and Army Civilians in modern software development, is frequently recognized for its innovation, tech collaboration and future-oriented approach, but is equally defined by the enthusiasm of its rising coders.

Participants in the Austin-based program, who are selected through a competitive application process, arrive from all over the country to learn the essentials of coding, app development, platform management and user design – all in a concerted effort to build a stronger, more agile Army.

Many of the current participants were drawn to apply to the Software Factory in part because of its unique model, which offers the ability to transform an individual with no previous experience in software development to an advanced software developer within the span of three years.

The program — which welcomed an initial, 25-person cohort in January and a second, 30-person cohort in July — begins with immersive classroom learning but quickly transitions to peer mentor-paired training. During this second, hands-on phase, participants learn the ins and outs of software development from experienced tech industry partners while working in small teams to tackle real-life projects for Army clients.

While the initial cohorts have yet to reach later stages of the program, the plan is for students to gradually attain a level of knowledge that allows them to assist in training new Software Factory members, creating a learning and growth framework that embraces the program’s motto of “By Soldiers. For Soldiers.”

With the Software Factory already preparing to welcome its third cohort in early 2022, we sat down with some of its second cohort members earlier this month to learn more about their motivations for joining the groundbreaking program, as well as to hear about their experiences thus far.

Below are some of the insights they shared, which highlight not only how the Software Factory is molding Army leaders, but how current software development efforts are helping to shape future tech readiness at the tactical edge.

Cpt. Keyshawn Lee, 26, joined the Software Factory because he “wanted to be a part of something trailblazing, something that can really drive change,” he said.

He was working as a human resources officer at Fort Carson, Colorado, when he found out about the chance to join the program’s second cohort.

Lee, who grew up in a military family, was motivated to apply because he saw how advancing software resources could improve Army systems as a whole, with potentially life-saving implications.

“The faster we can iterate, the faster we can pivot, the faster we can deploy software, that’s equated to seconds on the battlefield, time on the battlefield and lives on the battlefield, which is most important,” Lee said.

In terms of the immersive classroom learning phase of the program, “it was everything I expected,” Lee said. “It was fun, I learned a lot and it was very applicable being able to learn it and then implement it right then and there.”

Lee particularly appreciates the teamwork emphasis of the program and the support of his colleagues at the Software Factory; “they motivate me to do better,” he said.

He looks forward to applying skills he has learned thus far in the program with his own background knowledge — including project management insights gained through his master of business administration degree — when delving into projects for Army clients.

“I really want to continue to step outside my comfort zone and just really learn to make great products to help our Soldiers,” Lee said.

Cpt. Ammar Masoud, 47, is not new to the world of coding, having previously worked for a software development company in the private sector, but he is nevertheless thrilled to be learning new software skills as a member of the Software Factory.

“Right now, I’m living the best of both worlds,” Masoud said. “I love coding, I love technology and I love IT, but I love serving at the same time.”

“I’m still a military officer, but I’m an Army coder,” Masoud reflected. “That’s unheard of before.”

Masoud has been in the Army for 16 years, serving in both Reserve and active-duty roles. His previous experiences as a Soldier include working as a cryptologic voice interceptor, a civil–military relations and a civil affairs officer, as well as completing deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the first civil affairs officer to have been selected from the Army Special Operations Forces community to join the Software Factory.

Now that he has finished the classroom portion of the program, Masoud looks forward to “working on very complex projects that will bring value to Soldiers, to the Army, to DoD and our country.”

“I want to be part of creating software tools that will save lives, will add value, will save time for Soldiers and just make their work better over time,” he said.

As a former Soldier and current Department of the Army civilian, Lawrence Eckles, 56, is familiar with the opportunities and constraints presented by legacy Army IT systems.

During his early deployments, “the intelligence we got was usually about four days old,” he said. Thankfully, “the digital systems the Army uses now are much more responsive,” providing information within minutes instead of days.

Eckles, who is from Cleveland, Ohio, and joined the Army at 17, left active duty in 2002 due to medical reasons but still felt the urge to serve. “I wasn’t finished yet,” he said.

He went on to serve as a contractor for the Army, eventually joining the DA in 2017 as an IT specialist.

He is now one of the first five DA civilians to have joined the Army Software Factory.

“What they’re trying to do here — getting applications in the hands of Soldiers within a matter of months — is amazing, and it’s never been done before,” Eckles said.

He added that he has “felt very welcomed” to the team, which has helped “set the standard for what we are going to do next.”

“I’m just really, really grateful to have this opportunity, and grateful to everyone who has laid the groundwork for this,” Eckles said.

Andrew Graham, 26, is a DA civilian who worked as a computer engineer for the Army for four-and-a-half years before joining the Software Factory.

He was based out of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, when he saw the announcement for the program and jumped at the opportunity to learn additional software skills while experiencing life in Austin.

Graham, who grew up in the suburbs of Oklahoma City and received an electrical engineering degree from Rice University, has enjoyed the mix of learning and contributing to learning that he has been able to partake in at the Software Factory.

As a former League of Legends amateur tournament organizer, a job that involved “a lot of people asking the same question over and over again,” he also understands the importance of clear guidance. He has been able to apply that understanding to his role at the Software Factory, where having helpful software development instructions is essential for learning, conveying and preserving information.

During his time at the Software Factory, Graham has observed the benefits of having both Soldiers and DA Civilians present. “You need to make sure you’re not making echo chambers or silos and are bringing in other perspectives,” he explained.

Graham looks forward to the hands-on aspects of Phase 2 and hopes to play an integral role in further Army initiatives, including by continually exploring the question of “What’s the best thing we can do for bettering the whole Army?”

Staff Sgt. Aaron Lawson, 34, joined the Software Factory after working as a unit logistics specialist for the Army.

A native of San Antonio, Lawson lived in Texas and Georgia with his grandfather, a command sergeant major, before joining the Army at 17.

He served on active duty for a number of years before transitioning to a Reserve role and working as a software developer and integrator for a private company. However, he soon found that he “really missed being with Soldiers and wearing the uniform every day,” so decided to rejoin the Army as an active-duty Soldier.

Lawson sees the Software Factory as offering a compelling blend of his interests as a Soldier and as a software developer. He also has firsthand experience with some of the Army’s existing software systems and is eager to learn the tools to help improve them.

Thus far, he has been very pleased with the journey toward that aim.

“I’m incredibly impressed and extremely proud to work with everyone here at the Software Factory,” Lawson said.

He has found the Software Factory’s culture to be “very inviting,” and describes its efforts as highly impactful and rewarding.

“I love being a Soldier and doing things for Soldiers,” Lawson said.

DA Civilian Stephen Scott, 25, had never lived outside of New Jersey before moving to Austin earlier this year to join the Software Factory.

He learned about the chance to get more involved in furthering Army software development while working as a weapons systems software engineer at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

“I was always interested in technology in general,” Scott said, sharing that he was a member of his high school’s robotics team before studying computer science in college.

He was inspired to apply to the Software Factory after reading a description of the program in an email and remembers thinking “that would be a cool experience; that’d be a good way to learn, a good way to build my skillset and have an immediate impact.”

“It’s a very different type of programming,” Scott said of the app-focused programming he is learning. He added that “everyone has completely different backgrounds and different skillsets coming in, which I think is a good thing.”

“I have learned a lot, and I definitely feel like my overall knowledge of skills has drastically improved over the past few months,” Scott shared.

Josh Farrington, 29, is a DA Civilian who comes to the Army Software Factory from Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, where he worked as a software developer for the Aviation Mission Planning System.

Born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, Farrington was familiar with the defense community growing up. He joined the DA after graduating from college with a degree in industrial and systems engineering.

Farrington views the Software Factory as providing a valuable opportunity to expand his software programming experience while also working more closely alongside Soldiers and experiencing life in Austin.

“I’m excited to write code that’s actually going to get used to start solving problems,” Farrington said.

He added that he was “really drawn by the ability to work directly with Soldiers,” explaining that the Soldiers he works with frequently provide helpful insights into the ways in which certain technologies would be useful in the field.

“It has made it more real, the impact I’m having as a DA civilian,” Farrington said.

The Army Software Factory acknowledged the achievements of Lee, Masoud, Eckles, Graham, Lawson, Scott, Farrington and the remaining members of Cohort 2 during a Dec. 17 recognition ceremony in Austin, which marked the transition from the cohort’s classroom learning phase to a hands-on training stage.

By Maureena Thompson, Army Futures Command