By Maj. Jennifer L. Vogel, Test Officer, Command and Control Test Division, Mission Command Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs
FORT BLISS, Texas – Soldiers and Leaders from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division tested the Command Post Computing Environment (CPCE) here during Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 18.2. Nov. 1 to 12.
CPCE is the first part of a convergence strategy to collapse functionality of Command Post of the Future (CPOF), Tactical Ground Reporting (TIGR), Command Web, and Global Command and Control System-Army (GCCS-A), aimed to improve situational awareness and mission command on the battlefield.
“CPCE is a critical component as the Army modernizes and goes forward,” said Col. John Gregor, director of the Mission Command Test Directorate (MCTD) at the U.S. Army Operational Test Command at Fort Hood, Texas.
“It is important to the core infrastructure that will be responsible for the Common Operating Environment (COE). Without CPCE, you don’t have a COE.”
The CPCE test purpose at NIE is to put the same equipment that has already been proven at a developmental test, into an environment that is operationally realistic.
The partnership and collaboration between the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command (JMC), U.S. Army Operational Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC), and Program Executive Office Command Control Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), along with the test unit is critical to setting the conditions for the operational test.
“Being agile in the way we have conducted this test should help inform the Program Manager as we go forward,” Gregor said.
“We work as one team as we lay out the operational environment to get after all the test objectives, assessment objectives and unit training objectives as well,” said Col. Eulys Shell, Director of the Network Integration Division at JMC.
CPCE Test Officer Sam McAdoo said, “We collect data, without making any kind of judgement on it, whether manual or instrumented, through surveys or focus groups, or whether it’s just observations. All that combined in this operationally realistic training environment allows us to provide data to decision makers.”
“Our operational test is the second to last data point that will go before an Army-wide fielding decision,” said Lt. Col. Shermoan Daiyaan, Product Manager at Tactical Mission Command, Program Manager Mission Command at PEO C3T. “The 3/82 will give operational feedback from the test and that data will be used to determine operational effectiveness, suitability and survivability.
“The biggest thing about CPCE is that it is intended to be the hub for breaking down the stove pipes within the command post,” Daiyaan continued. “Currently, every mission command system has to interoperate via an intermediary and they were not built to give the commander a common operating picture.
“Bringing them all together in a fused way gives us the first brick in the foundation to be able to build towards the future where our systems are more modular and integration is thought about first instead of the specificity of the capability.”
Lt. Col. Jon Hartsock, commander of the 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 82nd ABN DIV, said, “CPCE provides unprecedented capability to conduct mission command digitally on the move.”
“Without using FM at all, we controlled the Squadron’s maneuver all through digital chat. CPCE also improves situational awareness by providing the ability to instantly view where units are arrayed on the battlefield. These functions combined, enabled the Squadron to rapidly move through the operations process and allowed us to gain the initiative against the opposing force.”
“CPCE is definitely easier to navigate,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ali Azure Konane, Information Systems Protection Technician, with the 3rd BCT, 82nd ABN DIV. “We got to see some of the kinks of the systems, between Joint Battle Command Platform (JBC-P) and CPCE, so this experience at NIE has been value added.”
1st Lt. Terrence P. Wright, Headquarter and Headquarters Troop executive officer of 5-73 CAV attended new equipment training and said the CPCE learning curve is much easier versus the current Command Post of the Future capability.
One of Wright’s favorite features of CPCE is the ability to run a live Common Operating Picture with multiple people working on the system at the same time. “Former legacy systems only allowed one at a time,” he said.
“We learned that Soldiers feel the system is easy to use, simple and intuitive,” said Daiyaan. “The ultimate goals from an operational test are to learn something about the capabilities and limitations of the system, make adjustments, and then field a better capability to the Army. With those three goals in mind we are going to meet all those marks.”
Daiyaan said the test also determined if units need more knowledge management training.
“Because when you give a unit more power and more information,” he explained, “managing it becomes a full time job and if you don’t have processes in place to be able to manage all that data, it can become noise and you start to ignore things and rely on what works.”
Hartsock said his squadron conducted high intensity operations over a two-week period while testing new Mission Command systems.
“The Army has always struggled with digital MC systems, especially at the lower echelons; battalion and below,” he said. “NIE provided us the opportunity to test future MC systems and provide critical feedback for further development.”
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
As the Army’s only independent operational tester, USAOTC tests Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. USAOTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.
USAOTC’s Mission Command Test Directorate tests systems for a net-centric environment that will process and transmit voice, data, messaging and video information through networks at the tactical, operational, strategic and sustaining base levels.