by COL Dennis Via and MAJ Linda Jantzen
Army transformation and digitization is in full swing at Fort Hood, Texas. With this comes the most significant training challenge for III Corps and its Signal units since the mobile-subscriber equipment system was initially fielded a decade ago.
The 3d Signal Brigade, 13th Signal Battalion, 124th Signal Battalion, 534th Signal Company and Reserve Component affiliates 212th Signal Battalion, 249th Signal Battalion and 136th Signal Battalion have in recent years installed and/or fielded multiple enhancements and replacements to existing MSE equipment. These enhancements and replacements were made to support the explosion of interoperable Army Battle-Command Systems and multimedia videoteleconferencing systems. Locally procured, commercial-off-the-shelf systems and institutional upgrades such as Area Common-User System-Modernized provide an interim capability to accommodate the increased bandwidth and interoperability demands placed on our tactical network until the objective Warfighter Information Network-Tactical takes the stage.
The ACUS-Mod program provides near-term increases in data capacity, extended range and improved data quality to III Corps� MSE architecture by adding asynchronous-transfer-mode switching, high-capacity line-of-sight transmission, battlefield VTC and information-assurance tools to division- and corps-area Signal battalions. In contrast with earlier MSE enhancements, ATM MSE will be fielded only to III Corps Signal units and will require significant individual and collective task training above and beyond that introduced at Advanced Individual Training or Signal leader courses. Signal soldiers from AIT arrive at an ATM-equipped unit with about 40 percent of the required skill set; soldiers and leaders arriving from other units have even less.
Although 124th Signal Battalion has used ATM/HCLOS/BVTC/IA equipment since the �first digital division� completed all its systems fieldings in December 2000 and its division capstone exercises I and II in 2001, the �first digital corps� Signal brigade is still in its infancy. The requirement to install, operate and maintain a hybrid of MSE systems � including ATM, tactical high-speed data network and legacy systems � while maintaining deployment readiness introduces significant challenges.
�Signal is a combat arm, and information is an element of combat power,� said LTG B.B. Bell, III Corps� commander, at a recent III Corps G-6/S-6 conference at Fort Hood. Starting with the success of 4th Infantry Division�s capstone exercises (DCX Phase I and II) in 2001, III Corps Signal units must now continuously maintain a high state of readiness with their unique switching and transmission systems to support operational missions and requirements.
III Corps is currently being modernized as the FDC � the first fighting force of its size with a complete suite of interoperable, automated command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems. Accordingly, III Corps units have made great progress in leveraging these information systems� capabilities in their tactical-operations centers. To be effective combat multipliers, all battlefield information systems must have the ability to quickly and reliably exchange data across the network. If information is a weapon, ABCS provides the ammunition, and the communications network is the delivery system.
The III Corps information-delivery system is currently a hybrid of different switching and transmission technologies, all routinely operating in the same network. The 124th Signal Battalion and 16th Signal Battalion currently employ ATM and HCLOS. All node centers and small extension nodes in 13th Signal Battalion and 57th Signal Battalion � as well as the large extension nodes in 124th Signal Battalion, 16th Signal Battalion, 136th Signal Battalion and 212th Signal Battalion � received the THSDN modification work order in 2001, upgrading routers and adding enhanced-transmission-group modular orderwire and high-speed forward-error correction cards.
THSDN increased data-transport capability by an order of magnitude and accomplished it without a corresponding increase in training requirements. Our military-occupation-specialty 31F switch operators required only 40 hours of training to become proficient. Since THSDN is currently being fielded across the Army, the need for sustainment training is somewhat diminished since new arrivals to III Corps are likely to have worked with this equipment in previous Signal units.
Though ATM is more complex and difficult to train, the requirement for ATM capability has been repeatedly demonstrated in III Corps. A year ago in III Corps� warfighter exercise Phantom Fighter 2001, the tactical C4I, surveillance and reconnaissance network supported 197 ABCS users, 514 tactical local-area network clients and 18 servers, and 11 serial-based VTC suites. One year later, the corps� Embedded Warfighter 2002 network was even more complex and extensive, supporting 257 ABCS users, 1,289 TACLAN corps and division clients, and 20 serial-based VTC suites.
To meet the demand in the near-term, ACUS-Mod modifies MSE NCs and SENs with commercial standard ATM switches and Internet-protocol routers. IP-based BVTC equipment is added to ATM NCs. The coaxial connection between NCs and the LOS radio system is upgraded with fiberoptic links. Also, security-protection systems are added that include access-control lists, firewalls, intrusion-detection systems, malicious-code detection, automatic-password generation, encryption capability and IA-management capability.
The AN/GRC-226 LOS radio system is replaced by the AN/GRC-245 trunk radio, or HCLOS, providing a data rate of 8.192 megabits per second. HCLOS is interoperable with legacy switching and LOS systems; provides a transmission range of up to 40 kilometers; and operates as a terminal or radio-relay system.
Fielding ACUS-Mod systems to 16th Signal Battalion required the unit to exchange practically every piece of legacy MSE Signal equipment. The battalion received 52 ATM switching shelters, 73 HCLOS radio shelters and six new 30-meter antenna masts, as well as upgraded 122 of the 15-meter antenna masts and fielded the integrated-system control � all within six months.
�Digital training� is most commonly thought of as training for ABCS operators and digitally equipped TOC soldiers at all levels. In reality, however, digital training is not only a training issue, it�s a readiness issue. In III Corps, training MSE operators and Signal units to enable ABCS to operate across a tactical network closely parallels training ABCS operators and digitally equipped TOC personnel. Along with training MSE operators and network controllers, Signal units � like their subscribers � have a requirement to train their own staffs to use ABCS systems. Therefore, digital training in Signal units must incorporate operating and managing both ABCS and unique Signal-support systems.
Unlike the THSDN upgrade and earlier modifications, the uniqueness and volume of ACUS-Mod systems in III Corps creates an enormous training shortfall in Signal units � similar to the �digital delta� associated with training ABCS operators across the corps. Bridging the digital delta far exceeds any single unit�s resources of time, equipment and funding due to the real-world requirement for the Signal-unit commander to maintain deployment readiness and to support ongoing training exercises such as U.S. Forces Korea�s Ulchi Focus Lens and frequent National Training Center rotations.
The first corps-area Signal battalion to modernize with ATM/HCLOS/BVTC/IA was 16th Signal Battalion in January-May 2001. The 1st Cavalry Division�s 13th Signal Battalion began fielding in March; 13th will be followed by 57th Signal Battalion in January 2003 and Reserve Component affiliates in Summer 2003. Maintaining the proficiency of operators, leaders and network managers as units modernize requires intense training and personnel management.
The 16th Signal Battalion sent 582 soldiers through new-equipment training, which included the 160-hour ATM operator/maintainer course; the 24-hour HCLOS operator/maintainer course; the 104-hour ISYSCON staff user and 40-hour system-administrator courses; the 160-hour IA-management-cell course; the 24-hour transportable-assembly/perimeter-protection courses; and the fiberoptic-cable repairer course. NET culminated in crew drills and a battalion field-training exercise that integrated all the new systems into a battalion-sized network.
Following initial NET provided at Fort Hood by the program manager, each battalion must develop and maintain its own initial and sustainment training program as new soldiers arrive. With two ATM battalions currently on Fort Hood, more than 120 soldiers and leaders require individual initial or refresher training, and more than 500 require sustainment training each year. Also, more than 390 Signal assemblage and battle-staff teams require sustainment training per year. Compounding this issue is an average annual turnover rate of some 1,728 Signal soldiers annually.
The training population continues to grow as III Corps Signal units field ATM/HCLOS, placing an added strain on already limited resources. By 2004, the number of assigned soldiers and leaders requiring ATM and HCLOS training alone is anticipated to exceed 1,600 annually.
Concurrent with fielding the ACUS-Mod systems, III Corps� Signal leadership recognized the need for a new training strategy as the corps transitions from analog to digital operations. To maintain a Signal unit�s effectiveness, all levels of training must be considered: individual, collective/team and collective/staff, and leader training. Depending on when the training takes place and the target audience�s level of training at the time, the training may be considered �initial� (for new arrivals, unfamiliar with the equipment), �sustainment� (scheduled training to maintain skills over time) or �delta� (to supplement training after changes are made to the software of a system that has previously been trained).
The vehicle for accomplishing this is an evolving III Corps digital-training vision and strategy entitled Phantom Warrior Digital University. This strategy is a cooperative effort among 3d Signal Brigade, division Signal battalions, Fort Hood agencies, Communications-Electronics Command, General Dynamics, Fort Hood�s Digital Training Facility and the U.S. Army Signal Center to develop and execute a digital-training program that creates, maintains and improves expertise with modernized Signal-support systems. The program, which parallels the corps� training program for ABCS and related systems, is designed to be comprehensive and flexible enough to support each level and type of training simultaneously and continuously while making the best use of the limited resources available.
Phantom Warrior Digital University encompasses the collective efforts of Signal units and other agencies at Fort Hood that contribute to ongoing initial and sustainment training for III Corps-unique as well as legacy Signal-support systems. Each Fort Hood Signal battalion is responsible for developing a training program and conducting training for its assigned topic area. Hence, each battalion participates in technically training its own and every other battalion�s soldiers.
Subjects or topics to be trained are known as �colleges,� and the responsible battalion commander is known as the �dean� of that college. The colleges are ATM/switching systems, conducted by 16th Signal Battalion; transmission systems, conducted by 13th Signal Battalion; THSDN, conducted by 57th Signal Battalion; and advanced Signal concepts, conducted by 124th Signal Battalion. Specialized subjects, taught less frequently for low-density skills, include special circuits, ISYSCON, strategic-to-tactical interface, Tactical Internet, tropospheric-scatter transmission and serial-based BVTC.
Phantom Warrior Digital University also seeks to meet the training needs of the G-6/S-6, who currently receives no formal training despite the significantly increased complexity of modern digital systems. Fort Hood�s Central Technical Support Facility offers a brigade/battalion S-6 tactical-network leader course. This course provides a brief overview of the first digital division, including its major network components, key network concepts and network protocols used in the flow of electronic-communications traffic at echelons brigade and below. Students learn techniques to view equipment status and to troubleshoot the LAN and its interface to the wide-area network provided by the supporting Signal unit.
Subjects introduced in the pilot S-6 tactical-network leader course held in July 2001 included FDD overview; basic networking; introduction to transmission-control protocol/IP, IP addressing and subnet masks; introduction to Cisco Catalyst switches; introduction to Cisco Catalyst 5505 multi-layer switches, Cisco 3600 routers and routers installation; basic traffic management and access list; open short-path-first features and operation; FDD architecture overview; connectivity wingman to brigade; and overview of the TOC server/echelons-below-corps concept.
Two more courses have been conducted, with each being further refined to meet the G-6/S-6�s training needs.
The Mobile Sustainment Training and Assessment Team conducts initial training for new-arrival MOS 31F ATM and MOS 31R HCLOS operators at General Dynamics� Regional Support Center on Fort Hood. MSTAT, a Signal Center initiative, is currently composed of three General Dynamics instructors who teach an ATM operator course, HCLOS operator course and router-fundamentals course several times each quarter. The RSC provides a classroom equipped with routers and workstations for router-fundamentals training. Equipment used for ATM training is provided by one of the two ATM battalions on Fort Hood.
Following MSTAT instruction, advanced training and sustainment training is conducted in the unit. Once the Phantom Warrior Digital University concept is completely implemented, 16th Signal Battalion will be responsible for planning and conducting a training program for ATM switch operators. The program will incorporate unit instructors, CECOM and General Dynamics instructors plus civilian education, and it will be conducted as frequently as necessary to accommodate all ATM units on Fort Hood.
One of the newest and fastest-growing digital-training requirements is IA. Contractors now train IA in III Corps as COTS courses. The 124th Signal Battalion and 16th Signal Battalion received NET after they received their transportable-area/perimeter-protection and IA-management cells. No formal sustainment-training program has been established; however, Fort Hood�s DTF will host IA training beginning in July.
III Corps devotes significant assets to procure, install, operate and maintain a serial-based, deployable BVTC network. BVTC usage has increased dramatically over the past 20 months. At the corps command-post level, BVTC is used as the new �corps command net� and as such carries the expectation of subscribers for 24-hour continuous operations.
To meet this requirement, 3d Signal Brigade established a special platoon in Fall 2000, the corps communications-support platoon, which includes a section of 15 soldiers dedicated to providing quality BVTC to the corps headquarters in garrison and to corps CPs in the field. In addition to installing, operating and maintaining BVTC systems, CCSP provides all communications support to the corps� tactical CP, including switching, data, single-channel and multichannel communications, and secure, mobile, antijam, reliable tactical terminal.
CCSP soldiers come from within the brigade, and most are Career Management Field 31. All are locally trained to operate BVTC equipment.
Most training is conducted by the CCSP network technician and contracted personnel. Surge training is conducted prior to every corps exercise and deployment to ensure BVTC suites are tested and operators are proficient across the corps.
The 313th Signal Company, a range-extension company organic to 3d Signal Brigade, has 16 TSC-170 tropospheric-scatter transmission systems. Although both Army and Air Force units use tropo, the MOS 31Rs who operate the TSC-170 receive no formal training at AIT. The 313th conducts regular �Tropo University� courses throughout the training year to maintain proficiency. The company has combined efforts with 11th Signal Brigade to improve this portion of its training program.
All III Corps signal units use ISYSCON for network planning, management and control. Following NET for brigade- and battalion-level S-3 soldiers, sustainment training is the unit�s responsibility. Units have had difficulty in maintaining proficiency on ISYSCON due to its lack of use in garrison between field exercises � similar to the situation with ABCS systems.
The 3d Signal Brigade maintains an ISYSCON in the S-3 operations office, cabled into Fort Hood�s garrison-training-network NC. GTN consists of an NC, SEN and radio-access unit, installed and operated on a rotating basis among the Signal battalions on post. GTN operates five days a week, 24 hours a day, and provides a vehicle for ISYSCON training as well as a continuous resource for mobile-subscriber radio-terminal user training, strategic-to-tactical gateway and installation LAN gateway for the major subordinate commands at Fort Hood.
The brigade has experienced limited success in conducting sustainment training for its ISYSCON operators and those of the Signal battalions on post. NET is intensive and difficult to replicate if a network controller arrives after ISYSCON is initially fielded. The PM provided a post-fielding round of NET at Fort Hood in Fall 2001. However, no permanent formal program of sustainment training for ISYSON is in place. Proficiency will increase, of course, as ISYSCON is fielded across the Army and operators take their expertise from duty station to duty station.
Fort Hood�s Central Technical Support Facility conducts regular ABCS training as part of a larger program for training G-6/S-6 personnel on ABCS, TOC LANs, Enhanced Position-Location Reporting System and other emerging C4ISR systems. The program has been successful; however, the high turnover of soldiers greatly reduces the number of proficient operators available to the unit.
Training on Force XXI Battle-Command Brigade and Below, All-Source Analysis System and Advanced Field-Artillery Tactical Data System is migrating to Fort Hood�s DTF � this training was scheduled to begin in late June or early July. DTF will bring other courses on-line as resources become available.
Equipment fielding doesn�t end with signing hand-receipts or concluding NET. With the continuous flow of new systems and software � as well as upgrades to existing systems � into III Corps units, setting and maintaining a coherent course for training time and other training resources requires a continuous dialog among several agencies both on and off Fort Hood. The need for a regular forum in which to bring together these agencies led to establishing the first digitized corps� Signal Council of Colonels, held quarterly at Fort Hood, and hosted by 3d Signal Brigade�s commander and III Corps� deputy G-6.
The FDC Signal CoC brings together III Corps agencies and Signal units, materiel developers, combat developers, training developers, Training and Doctrine Command system managers, PMs, contractors and representatives from Forces Command and the Signal Center. This group discusses future and ongoing equipment hardware and software fieldings related to providing Signal support to the FDC. This team approach to fielding and training provides a model worth emulating as systems currently unique to III Corps are fielded throughout the Army.
In summary, digital training in III Corps is characterized by:
Several units and agencies share the responsibility of conducting digital training:
|Using state-of-the-art facilities. Fort Hood has several training facilities designed for digital training. Some are dedicated to training Signaleers, while others are available for general usage:|
The 16th Signal Battalion�s approach is to conduct �ATM Academy� quarterly. This two-day event is designed to give leaders and advanced operators classroom and hands-on instruction in ATM network theory, management and troubleshooting. The agenda includes such core competencies as router operation and troubleshooting, routing protocols, IP and subnetting. The principle instructors, coordinated by the battalion S-3, are the unit network technicians and General Dynamics technical representatives.
Leader training also includes self-development. Through the e-Army University program, Fort Hood�s education center provides laptop, color printer and dial-up access to the Internet for soldiers who desire to pursue civilian college education. The student must have three years� retainability and complete 12 semester-hours in the first two years.
When open, the new SDC will assist commanders by providing a state-of-the-art facility and some coursework to allow soldiers to pursue work-related civilian and military courses on duty time. The benefits of civilian education for the soldier and the Army are significant, given the increasing use of COTS equipment in tactical communications systems.
As a result of being �first in the chute� to field many unique Army C4 systems, Signal units in III Corps recognize they are walking point on this issue and must help get it right for our Army. They also recognize that bridging the digital delta is a significant challenge facing our Army, and especially the Signal Regiment, as it transforms to the Objective Force and beyond.
Digital-training requirements in III Corps demand resources far greater than any unit with an operational mission can support. During the post-fielding phase of sustaining unit readiness, partnering is essential across the installation and with external agencies. The overall strategy is to share the burden of high-intensity training to maintain warfighting readiness. III Corps is effectively leveraging resources from the resident Signal units, General Dynamics, CECOM, FORSCOM, Signal Center, Fort Hood�s DTF and III Corps� DOIM to provide soldiers and leaders with the digital training they require to gain and maintain system proficiency to install, operate and maintain digital C4 systems for the warfighter.
COL Via has been 3d Signal Brigade commander and III Corps assistant chief of staff, G-6, at Fort Hood since June 2000. He holds a bachelor�s degree from Virginia State University and a master�s degree from Boston University. He has served in a variety of command and staff assignments, including battalion S-4 and company commander in 35th Signal Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C.; War Headquarters communications officer and aide to the Army Forces South chief of staff, Naples, Italy; operations officer, J-6, Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, Washington, D.C.; operations research systems analyst assignments officer, U.S. Army Personnel Command; assistant division Signal officer, battalion S-3, executive officer and commander of 82d Signal Battalion, Fort Bragg; staff officer in the C4 Tactical Systems Division, executive officer and special assistant to the director of plans and programs, office of the director of information systems for command, control, communications and computers; and III Corps deputy assistant chief of staff, G-6. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and the Army War College.
MAJ Jantzen has been the S-3 operations at 3d Signal Brigade since June 2000. She holds a bachelor�s degree in mass communications from the University of Illinois in Chicago and a master�s degree in telecommunications from Michigan State University. A graduate of the Command and General Staff Officer�s Course, she has served in various command and staff positions in the Signal Corps in the United States, Bosnia, Germany, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Korea. Her assignments include commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 440th Signal Battalion, 22d Signal Brigade, Darmstadt and Lukavac, Bosnia; operations group Signal officer, Combat Maneuver Training Center, Hohenfels, Germany; battalion S-1, battalion maintenance officer and division Signal plans officer, 10th Signal Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y., and Mogadishu, Somalia; and platoon leader, 26th Signal Battalion, 93d Signal Brigade, in Operation Desert Storm.
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