by MAJ Michael McCaffery
No corner of the world exists where the American army isn�t using digitization as a force multiplier, it seems. Digitization is alive and well in Kosovo, for instance, helping paint the coalition common operating picture.
Task Force Falcon in the Central Balkans country expanded our digital command-and-control system on the recently concluded force-projection Exercise Rapid Guardian. This C2 expansion included German, British, Finnish and Swedish vehicles, with the system automatically updating unit icons on the COP in tactical-operations centers across the brigade sector.
The digital peace-support operations COP is actually two systems (Enhanced Information System and the C2 personal computer) working as one.
EIS consists of commercial OmniTracs hardware with Force XXI Battle-Command Brigade and Below software fed into a virtual personal network in Germany, then sent via the Army�s secure Internet protocol routed network to the Multinational Brigade (East) COP. EIS uses Ku-band antennas to communicate location and messaging with remote stations. OmniTracs, the commercial tracking system, uses Global Positioning System input to add tracking and location capability to coalition-partner and allied vehicles.
U.S. Army Europe�s deputy chief of staff for operations runs EIS, on which Army digitization in the European theater is based. Task Force Falcon has more than 400 EISs mounted in up-armored humvees. The EIS module provides the driver with location information on a digital map as well as satellite-messaging capability back to the system�s static version in the TOC. EIS� TOC also has a small, digital map display that provides locations of all EIS-equipped vehicles and messages. The system polls all EIS antennas every five minutes, which updates the locations represented on the TOC�s and vehicle�s graphical interface, making the system near-real-time.
C2PC is the map and database software in operations centers across the task force. C2PC receives EIS information via ASIPR and posts the current location of all task-force EISs and OmniTracs on a digital COP. C2PC is an important component of the overall PSO COP because it adds the operational graphics and overlays to EIS location input. The task force also shares operational information via C2PC overlays and vehicle tracks stored on a central server. All battalion and the maneuver-company TOCs remotely add their own local C2PC data and share that data via transmitted overlays with all task force TOCs across Kosovo, creating a common situation awareness for the unit.
As daily events are logged into the system and transmitted across the task force, a database is built that allows commanders to identify hotspots and local trouble areas, focusing their attention on those areas to provide a safe and secure environment.
When significant events happen in-sector, PSO COP allows commanders to address the situation more effectively by sharing accurate information instantly. For instance, an EIS in the vehicle of the commander on the ground enables him to see which of the myriad general-support units is in the area and available to employ. Back at the company, battalion or brigade level, C2PC tracks the movement of units as they respond.
Commanders of general-support units with overlapping responsibility areas � such as the military police, psychological operations or civil affairs � are directly plugged into the maneuver commander�s primary C2 system, enabling a synchronized operation. Further, general-support-unit commanders all have instant access to databases of locations, previous events, significant persons, danger areas and bridge data to speed the decision cycle at all levels. Since the task force relies heavily on general-support units as key PSO enablers, these background data points are pooled on C2PC overlays and shared digitally in near-real-time.
Also, since the knowledge database has been built, the friction involved with unit changeovers every six months is diminished.
PSO COP provides a planning tool that allows commanders to visualize not only the current state of the operational environment but also potential courses of action for future operations. This future operational picture can then be shared instantly and dynamically with adjacent and subordinate commanders, greatly reducing errors born of different interpretations of orders or acetate overlays.
Furthermore, PSO COP allows commanders in Germany to more easily prepare their units for their Kosovo rotation. For example, 1st Infantry Division is already constructing its next mission-readiness exercise to incorporate C2PC and its resident, up-to-the-minute database. As the current rotation builds the database for current operations, future rotations are accessing that database to better prepare their units.
Since 1st Infantry Division assumed the Kosovo mission in May, the task force has operated and expanded its PSO COP over tactical links the division Signal battalion provides to remote nodes. Until the recently completed remote-site commercialization, there were been as many as five remote tactical sites using the PSO COP.
The relatively low density of contract personnel is one reason why we believe this system is as adaptable to a high-intensity conflict scenario as it is for PSO. Right now four USAREUR-provided contract civilians support the PSO COP for the entire task force. EIS requires three civilians for installation, database and maintenance, and C2PC requires one contractor as a technical advisor and trainer.
The bottom line is that digitization, through PSO COP, is a force multiplier in the PSO environment using commercial-off-the-shelf equipment, initiative and, above all, innovation on the ground.
MAJ McCaffery is the G-6, MNB (E), Task Force Falcon, Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. He holds a bachelor�s degree in economics from Stonehill College, Mass., and two master�s degrees: one in telecommunications management from George Mason University and one master of military art and science (thesis: C2 and digitization) from the Army�s Command and General Staff College. His military experience includes battalion Signal officer in a Special Forces battalion; commander of Company B, 304th Signal Battalion; action officer, office of the Army�s chief of staff, Pentagon; and command, control, communications, computers and intelligence instructor, Marine Corps University, Quantico, Va.
Also see related letter to the editor in Pulse.
Back issues on-line | "Most requested" articles | Article search | Subscriptions | Writer's guide
Army Communicator is part of Regimental Division, a division of Office Chief of Signal.