SOLDIERS AT NIE RUN NETWORK EQUIPMENT THROUGH LIFE-LIKE COMBAT SCENARIOS
28 Nov 12. Testing networked equipment in a lab ensures functionality, but only a field evaluation with Soldiers ensures it will work as designers intended in an operating environment.
At Fort Bliss, Texas, and on its training ranges just north of the border in New Mexico, Soldiers with the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, completed Network Integration Evaluation 13.1, Nov. 17. During the month-long Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, Soldiers in a field environment tested and evaluated 26 pieces of equipment for their usability and compatibility with existing Army networks.
Soldiers with the 2/1 AD, part of the Army’s Brigade Modernization Command, or BMC, are not evaluators or equipment testers by trade. They are a regular, warfighting, combat-training brigade combat team that could be tasked to go to Afghanistan like every other Army brigade.
The difference is, when the 2/1 AD trains, the Soldiers are tasked to include in their preparations new equipment the Army wants to integrate across the larger force, to make sure it is combat-ready and Soldier-usable, and to evaluate its readiness to be integrated into existing systems before it is fielded to other units.
“The NIE is about taking the equipment that’s been nominated to fill what the Army deems as a gap in what our capabilities (are), and putting it into the hands of real Soldiers, Soldiers trained to deploy and fight,” said Lt. Col. Andy Morgado, the G-3 operations officer for the Brigade Modernization Command. “They are a FORSCOM brigade that has been put on loan to the BMC to do this very thing. We put this equipment into a realistic environment, and try to break it, and see how it works. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Among the equipment at the most recent NIE were 21 systems under evaluation, and five systems under “test,” including Nett Warrior; Joint Battle Command Platform; RAM Warn; and Spider XM7. Additionally the Paladin PIM was under test at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.
“Nett Warrior is for battlefield communication, like a ‘Blue Force Tracker’ on the ground,” said Staff Sgt. Alex Carter. “It lets you know where team leaders and above are. The effects it has on the battlefield are amazing. For something as new as it is, I thought there would be a lot more glitches. I thought it would be just another piece of junk. But I’m very impressed by it.”
The Nett Warrior system includes an Android-driven, smartphone-like device mounted to a Soldier’s chest and attached to a radio system. Using applications installed on the system, Soldiers at team-level and above can see the mapped-out locations of other Soldiers wearing the device, communicate with each other via text message, as well as have visibility of “chem lights” dropped onto the mapped environment by other Soldiers to mark things such as improvised explosive devices or locations that require fires support. The markers can also designate locations where a platoon leader might want a team to move, for instance.
“Sometimes towns are very condensed,” he said. “With this you can tell exactly where Soldiers are. Every step you take you are a little bubble, you are a blue arrow. It shows exactly. When a team is bounding across the objective, you just pull this out and look at it. It’s real-time, it’s real effective.”
Carter said he’s impressed with the system, “you can send up a 9-line (medical evacuation request) in less than 30 seconds,” he said. And he’s also impressed with the texting function. It would have been a “combat multiplier” for him during the 29 months he served in Afghanistan.
“If you don’t have comms, you can still send text via satellite: this is our position, we’re holding here, here’s our liquid, ammunition, casualty and equipment report,” he said. “You can get [operations] orders, fragmentary orders, whatever you want through text messages. That way you’re not