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Symposium Brings New Technology, Ways to Fight to I Corps

Thursday, February 22nd, 2024

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Service members, tech industry professionals and academia gathered together at JBLM’s American Lake Conference Center for the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association’s second annual Enabling Distributed C2 Symposium from Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2024.

“One of the things that we wanted to do is provide a venue and event that would bring together industry, the military and academia to hear the challenges that leadership in the military has that we can help solve,” said Dave Stookey, treasurer of the AFCEA Northwest Chapter. “The Army and Air Force communicate what problems they’re having, especially in the INDOPACOM area, and then industry and academia have a better idea of what they’re asking for and how we can bring solutions. There are companies who have solved some of the same issues that maybe the Army or the Air Force could consider putting into use.”

At the forefront of the conference was a discussion about how technological innovation helps commanders attain better command and control while operating in the Indo-Pacific theater.

“One thing that we’re finding is that as technology improves, commanders want better visibility into what’s happening, better situational awareness and better information,” said Stookey. “Better technology enables the distributed C2 to get the right information to the right people in austere or challenged environments.”

Col. Rett Burroughs, the First Corps chief information operations officer (G6), elaborated on how better technology and data collection enable commanders to make better, informed decisions.

“Commanders have to know the data, they have to understand what they need and what’s missing from their requirements to make an informed decision,” said Burroughs. “Maybe you’re wearing a parachute and you and I are going to jump out of this airplane in 15 hours. We want to get an enemy read because they’re not going to wait till we land to start shooting at us. Technology has the ability to help us get the information that we need to make informed decisions, faster.”

Stookey elaborated on new strides the technology industry is making to control the amount and relevance of information commanders have access to.

“If you’re down range and you want information, you’re trying to pull the whole information search and that’s wrong,” he said. “What industry is doing is refining how you do a search when you’re at the edge. And then you do a query and only pull back what you need.”

Technology enabling greater command and control also helps mitigate the “tyranny of distance,” one of the most significant challenges I Corps faces operating in the Pacific.

“The tyranny of distance is always uppermost in my mind,” said Burroughs. “Because how am I going to get comms all the way to Australia and then to Thailand? We can provide at least a minimum of voice so Lt. Gen. Brunson can talk to the 7th Infantry Division commander who may be in Chitose, Japan. But we’re also working on building a better data infrastructure as well.”

Stookey talked about one of the ways the industry is helping I Corps overcome this obstacle.

“One of the areas industry is doing a lot is taking the cloud across the ocean,” said Stookey. “If you’re connected and you’re in the United States, that works great. But when you’re 6,000 miles away or in a country that doesn’t have the greatest fiber connection, what do you do? What the industry is doing is they’re putting that cloud computing in a box that can be the same size as a roll luggage. You can take it with you and then all you have to transact with the cloud is the minimum amount of data you need.”

With the amount of data commanders have access to and the speed at which they can get it, commanders can make better decisions faster.

“… Commanders need to be able to hear the confidence in a subordinate voice to know that they truly understand the task, mission, purpose, and the intent,” said Burroughs. “And if he can hear that and then free up his commanders to fight, then we’ve achieved success.”

By SGT Keaton Habeck

C5ISR Center Modernizes Army’s Countermine Mission at Sandhills Project

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

FORT LIBERTY, N.C. — Army researchers are teaming with operational units to define the future of countermine technology while developing solutions for Soldiers.

The Army’s C5ISR Center joined the 20th Engineer Brigade, 18th Airborne Corps and industry partners during the multi-day Sandhills Project experimentation event in December to demonstrate how Army Futures Command’s R&D community is shaping technological capabilities to meet Soldiers’ current and future needs.

C5ISR Center’s civilian engineers and scientists are modernizing the Army’s countermine mission space through investments in Aided Target Recognition, known as AiTR, with an emphasis on increased Soldier survivability. The Center was one of the first to develop and field AiTR during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, primarily for counter-improvised explosive device applications in combination with ground penetrating radar sensors. Now, the focus turns to the next round of threats. The C5ISR Center is an element of the Combat Capabilities Development Command under AFC.

Mike Donnelly, an electrical engineer in the Center’s Research and Technology Integration Directorate, said the group is developing AiTR algorithms for integration into platforms such as remote and autonomous ground robotics, small unmanned aerial systems and handheld detection systems. Breaching operations must be as fast and precise as possible to maintain momentum and reduce the enemy’s ability to target friendly forces.

“We go to the field to provide live demonstrations with Soldiers and collect data from real targets,” Donnelly said. “This helps us develop a more robust algorithm so that when you give it to the Soldier, you know it’ll work in wide range of environments and conditions. That’s been the fundamental ideology behind our program. Build the best AiTR we can for Soldiers when it comes time to deploy.”

In addition to civilian subject-matter experts, the Army assigns noncommissioned officers to C5ISR Center as enlisted advisers to bridge the gap between lab-based research and operational use.

“Working with Soldiers gives researchers a different perspective because they have on-the-ground experience,” said Master Sgt. Cory Stepp, a combat engineer assigned to C5ISR Center. “As the R&D coordinator for C5ISR Center, I go out and find units, and we take this technology to Soldiers to get a larger amount of feedback. It’s important to involve Soldiers early on so we can help fix some of the problems in the very beginning stages.”

Col. Kenneth Frey is director of the Maneuver Support Capability Development Integration Directorate, which writes requirements for the future capabilities of Army branches that include combat engineers. His team works with DEVCOM Centers and other Army research organizations to understand the current state of the art and where technology is headed to define modernization requirements.

“I aim to modernize the engineer regiment, specifically toward the 2040 future,” Frey said. “What are our threats in 2040? Where do we need to be in 2040 to prepare regiments to operate in that time and space? I leverage the science and technology community to understand the minimums and maximums of technology now and in the future.

“The main obstacle that I see for Soldiers today in this experimentation is they still do this mission in the threat and are physically in the breach. For 2040 or nearer, we want to remove Soldiers from the hazard. Everyone here — S&T, industry, leadership — has come together with their skillsets. It gives a vision of what can be done.”

C5ISR Center electrical engineer Clare Yang said algorithms help to reduce the cognitive burden on Soldiers as they conduct missions as well as improve situational awareness by automatically detecting threats of interest. AiTR does not require a Soldier to continually monitor a sensor feed but merely confirm what the algorithm detects.

“Soldiers can push the ground robotic platform ahead of their units to conduct breach objectives such as cutting wires, moving obstacles and neutralizing explosive hazards while they stay behind,” Yang said.

“With an air platform, Soldiers can elevate their point of view, which allows them to see a farther distance and a wider area. Time is of the essence when it comes to obstacle breaching, and the ability to see as far and wide of an area as possible will help combat engineers gather intel quickly and make speedy decisions. In the coming decades, we’ll see more human-machine integrated platforms.”

Maj. Nick Rinaldi, a project manager at Army Applications Lab, is part of a team focused on working across the service to bring solutions to the front lines.

“There are great programs in place to get us where we need to be in the Army of 2030 and Army of 2040,” Rinaldi said. “In parallel, there are activities happening at an operational unit level across multiple organizations in Army Futures Command and Corps of Engineers. How do we deliver in parallel? How do our Warfighters take advantage of technology as it’s becoming available?”

C5ISR Center participation in experimentation venues such as Sandhills Project and brigade training rotations is instrumental for the Army S&T community to move lab work into the field, according to Marc Titler, a chief engineer in the Center’s RTI Directorate.

“Our engineers and scientists get immediate feedback on the current capabilities that will improve the next iteration of their prototype systems,” Titler said. “SMEs gain a broader appreciation and context of the real-world mission space challenges and problems that helps focus investments and technical investigations.”

By Dan Lafontaine, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs

Rigorous Analysis of Future Operational Environment Informs Army Readiness

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

AUSTIN, Texas – Army Futures Command is charged with transforming the Army to ensure war-winning future readiness.

A major effort underpinning this goal is the command’s extensive study and assessment of the future operational environment.

“It’s not about getting it right,” said AFC Commanding General Gen. James E. Rainey of the command’s efforts to forecast future likelihoods. “It’s about not getting it really wrong and seeing what you got wrong and adapting faster than your enemy.”

In late 2022, AFC leadership identified the need for a “running estimate” of what future challenges the Army of 2040 might face, including how it is likely to be shaped by rapidly evolving technologies and shifting global geopolitics.

An initial version of the document, which focused on the 2040 timeframe, was developed by AFC’s Directorate of Intelligence and Security in early 2023.

Referred to as the Future Operational Environment Running Estimate, the living document draws upon insights from previous iterations of future forecasts — among them AFC Pamphlet 525-2, Future Operational Environment: Forging the Future in an Uncertain World 2035-2050 — but was uniquely designed to be updated continually, offering the Army the ability to iteratively refine its understanding of future warfare.

“Army Futures Command’s critical mission is to transform the Army through new capabilities, formations and operational concepts that provide war-winning readiness. Understanding the conditions of the future operational environment and how adversaries may fight is necessary to inform the command so it can develop the capabilities, formations and concepts to achieve overmatch in those conditions,” said Jacob Barton, Ph.D., AFC’s future operational environment intelligence chief.

The running document explores types of conditions warfighters might encounter, technologies that could disrupt the status quo and implications of near-peer adversary activities.

Input for the document is derived from intelligence reporting, academic and scientific studies, and sustained engagement with experts from across the intelligence community, industry, academia and think tanks. The document also includes input from organizations across the command and other elements of the Department of Defense, resulting in comprehensive and in-depth analysis of information, Barton explained.

AFC uses the assessment of the future operational environment to inform all other critical functions performed by the command, including research, concepts, experimentation, requirements and integration.

The work is often extraordinarily complex, given how rapidly situations and technologies can change.

“Some of the most challenging aspects of preparing for the future operational environment involve the difficult nature of attempting to forecast the future,” Barton said.

“In assessing trends about the current operating environment, we attempt to envision the range of possibilities that exist in 10 and 20 years. Then we make assessments of what we believe at the time to be the most likely conditions within the range of potential possibilities.”

Despite the vastness of the challenge, Barton believes AFC is well-positioned to serve as a steward of the document for the Army.

“By having close collaboration with concepts and capabilities writers, engineers, scientists, technologists and integrators, AFC is uniquely suited to compare friendly and adversarial capabilities and provide useful analysis about what might be necessary to provide the Army advantages in the future,” Barton said.

AFC shares its analysis with other members of the joint force, helping to refine understanding of mutual challenges and opportunities related to future readiness.

The Army-specific lens of the running estimate also extends beyond what is typically provided by academia and industry, making it particularly useful to Army leaders and planners. Due to the sensitive nature of the document, it is not available for public consumption; however, its insights are directly contributing to the nation’s ability to protect its future.

“Ultimately, the Army must maintain its advantages,” Barton said. “Protecting the information and judgments inherent to the running estimate is a necessary step to maintaining this advantage.”

By Maureena Thompson, Army Futures Command

Join Clawgear at Enforce Tac

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

Get ready for Tactical Tuesdays with Vertx!

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

If you’re not familiar with us, Vertx is known for delivering durable, high-quality bags, packs, and apparel tailored to the needs of tactical enthusiasts, civilians, and pro-2A advocates. In 2023 we unveiled our exclusive Vertx Pro line, featuring three uniform collections specifically designed for Federal, Military, and Public Safety professionals. Every Tuesday will be an opportunity to learn more about our product range, innovations, and events that matter to you.

Check out some of our best-selling products and see what others love about them:

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Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment Tests Emerging Battlefront Advancements

Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

FORT MOORE, Ga. — Operational insights on the battlefront are crucial. The Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment executes field experiments in real time, featuring live fires, simulations and force-on-force engagements to validate what will and won’t work for Soldiers amidst the conflicts of today and the challenges of tomorrow.

DRIVING CHANGE IN THE MANEUVER FORCE

The Maneuver Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate leads the Maneuver Battle Lab’s Live Experimentation Branch and sets the stage for the Army’s concept and materiel development for small unit modernization. As a key proponent on rising technologies, MBL hosts AEWE, an annual event held at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, a premiere showcase of innovations come to life. Each year, MBL partners with the science and technology community to submit ideas that can enhance the future of warfare.

Chris Willis, director of the MCoE Maneuver Battle Lab, shared this year’s experiment focus is “increasing the lethality of the infantry brigade combat team through robotic-enabled maneuver.” This means “taking capability, state-of-the-art technologies, and putting it into the hands of Soldiers, increasing the lethality to deliver the Army of 2030, and design the Army of 2040.”

AEWE

“For twenty years, AEWE has served as our Army’s premiere choice for modernization experimentation,” said Col. Scott A. Shaw, director of Maneuver CDID. “Vendors from all over the world, both industry and government based, submit to participate in the event to gather invaluable data, test their applications, and better yet, receive informative outcomes without the fear of failure when it really matters — in combat.”

Selected systems are presented for Army leadership interaction and put to the test throughout the experiment with Soldier touchpoints. Soldiers at the lowest tactical level can directly engage with the new technologies and various prototypes, and vendors receive invaluable feedback from experienced potential end users.

Willis noted, “AEWE brings together a live experiment and simulation. They are doing live field maneuvers that tie in, and a fighting simulation is simultaneously running.”

There have been a wide range of concepts showcased at AEWE, and some that incorporated feedback have been implemented into real Army applications.

“I remember seeing things like the Black Hornets, which are micro unmanned aerial vehicles, and the Nett Warrior system where Soldiers wear smartphones on their chest, and night vision goggles with infrared and thermal technology — they were all presented and tested here,” said Maj. Joseph Tague, Maneuver Battle Lab operations officer.

The AEWE runs from the beginning of the fiscal year in October, through second quarter, culminating in March with an insights brief. Outcomes and recommendations gathered during AEWE feed the Army Modernization Strategy, support the U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations, and this data informs leadership about the functionality and capabilities available. For many participating technologies, this means getting on the radar for future Army equipment decisions.

HERE AND NOW

“Inviting our partners and allies to collaborate on next-generation military warfare enhances our foreign relationships and underlines the significance of how enduring partnerships are a way our joint forces can deliver ready combat formations and strengthen the profession of arms,” said Shaw.

This year, AEWE has 48 participating concepts that will be put to the test over 50 days, which includes training and data collection conducted at Fort Moore. For AEWE, MBL brought together 182 Soldiers to comprise a multifaceted experimentation force of MCoE service members, foreign allies participating from the British Army, Dutch Army and German Army, and a platoon of Soldiers from Fort Johnson, Louisiana, who will serve as the opposition force acting as near-peer adversaries during Force-on-Force exercises.

“We need to be able to understand how we can integrate new technologies into both our infantry and armor formations,” Willis said. “From the experiment, we are trying to understand the operational effectiveness of new capabilities, looking at concepts, formations, or technologies, and how all three of these connect and could affect each other.”

Soldiers will evaluate components from seven categories — lethality, survivability, mobility, training, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, command and control, and sustainment — of these emerging technologies to gauge their potential effectiveness on modern battlefields. Experimenting and testing proposed concepts and capabilities can directly determine what tools could benefit the force and enhance tactical skills at the lowest echelon.

Shaw emphasized “Across multiple domains, innovation is key in warfighting and successful implementation of cutting-edge technology creates the overmatch necessary to win on future battlefields.”

By Camelia Streff

MATBOCK Monday: Rain or Shine

Monday, February 19th, 2024

As military operatives, we know that the battleground doesn’t always adhere to the convenience of dry conditions. In the crucible of operational environments, where water, mud, and extreme weather are constants, gear failure is not an option. That’s where the MR Dry 2.0 asserts its dominance, leaving competitors behind.

Engineered through hard-won experience, the MR Dry 2.0 has long surpassed its rivals, setting the standard for durability and adaptability in the field. From amphibious assaults to rugged land operations, this bag stands as the quintessential solution to the challenges of modern warfare.

Pairing seamlessly with the renowned Mystery Ranch NICE frame, or adaptable to other rigid frames, the MR Dry 2.0 embodies versatility.
Its three size options cater to the diverse needs of military units, ensuring that no mission is compromised by inadequate gear storage.

Gear integrity is non-negotiable for SEALs, Marines, and maritime teams navigating unforgiving terrains. The genesis of the MR Dry 2.0 emerges from the necessity of safeguarding mission-critical equipment against the elements on the frontline. Its innovative design shields gear from moisture and debris and streamlines accessibility and organization—a game-changer for those operating in wet and demanding
conditions.

In the crucible of combat, where success hinges on preparedness and adaptability, the MR Dry 2.0 is an indispensable ally. It’s not just a bag; it’s a testament to the enduring spirit of innovation forged through experience—the kind of innovation that ensures mission success and brings our troops home safely.

For more information, check out their maritime line: www.matbock.com/collections/maritime or email [email protected]

Swapping Skills and Patches at the Panzer Shooting Range

Monday, February 19th, 2024

STUTTGART, Germany – Ten soldiers from the German military, the Bundeswehr, earned U.S. Army Marksmanship Qualification Badges at Panzer Kaserne in Böblingen Oct. 18, while strengthening German-American friendship.

After a three-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, the USAG Stuttgart Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) was finally able to host German Soldiers at the Panzer shooting range again, allowing them to earn the American marksmanship badges.

Capt. Andrew Horn, who assumed command of the HHC in early 2023, expressed satisfaction in hosting the Bundeswehr personnel and enabling their increased understanding of American weaponry.

“When we have these events, it keeps communication between us open, and therefore the friendship keeps going,” said Horn.

Following a round of practice shots, the invited German soldiers got the green light to demonstrate their shooting skills. Three Bundeswehr soldiers scored a perfect 40, earning the highly coveted ‘expert’ badge and the admiration of their colleagues.

Events like these provide opportunities for soldiers on both sides to bond, swap stories, and learn about each other’s cultures and military life. They sometimes include the chance to exchange keepsakes such as badges worn on their arms to symbolize their regiment or corps.

Sergeant Erik one of the Bundeswehr soldiers who scored a perfect 40, was eager to swap some of his patches for American ones. “It’s always fun to exchange badges. I love hearing the story behind them. I have some that have already caught my eye, and I hope to exchange them for some of mine,” he said.

Hauptfeldwebel (Sgt. 1st Class) Michel, who previously shot with American soldiers, always welcomes participation in these types of events.

“Days like these are always special as it’s like being together with brothers, and it increases the teamwork amongst ourselves,” Michel said.

These events are not only for bonding, but also serve practical purposes. “It’s helpful in case there is a real-world scenario, and we’d have to consider each other’s capabilities,” explained Horn. “We are familiar with it since we’ve already seen and practiced with each other’s equipment before.”

After a long and exhausting day, everyone gathered for a typical American barbecue, closing out with hamburgers and new patches from their counterparts.

Per Bundeswehr policy, German soldiers are identified only by rank and first name.

By BALMINA SEHRA