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Soldier Battle Lab testing future force

By Spc. Nikki St. Amant

FORT BENNING, Ga. (Army News Service, Feb. 8, 2005) - Fort Benning agencies began experimenting with new Army force structures Jan. 31 as part of the transition to the Future Combat System.

Subject-matter experts from Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Sill, Okla., are participating in the experiments at Benning's battle lab.

Fort Benning's role in the experiment is to ensure the Army's focus on the Soldier as the centerpiece is maintained as structure and missions change, said Lt. Col. Everett Johnson, Analysis Division chief with the Soldier Battle Lab.

The new units of action and employment will incorporate new technologies, communications needs and capabilities as well as battle-staff requirements, but the effectiveness and impact of higher-level changes have to be analyzed all the way down to the individual Soldier, he said.

The Army's new way of doing business will let information flow laterally, in real time, through all echelons instead of up and down the chain of command. By using cutting-edge technologies, the new force structure will rapidly communicate, and plan and execute missions with the most accurate information at their fingertips.

That information will come from unmanned aerial vehicles, satellites and instantaneous intelligence and situational reports from squad and company elements on the ground.

The first phase of this year's experiment is focusing on virtual scenarios.

Picture it as an on-line game where all users are looking at a map and watching elements move and react to different scenarios. Company commanders are looking at the same screen as division-level commanders and can discuss tactics and receive guidance as quickly as they can type or speak over a secure connection.

Platoon leaders, squad leaders and support elements are included in the information network and can adjust fire accordingly. The next phase will incorporate more involved testing, with actual Soldiers with weapons in hand, moving through a virtual environment on virtual missions.

"All this stuff we are doing is going to be documented in Future Combat System tasks, which future units will have to perform," said Tollie Strode, an FCS doctrine analyst with the Directorate of Combat Developments. "The Infantry Center and School will incorporate those tasks into the Future Combat System manuals, which are equivalent to our current field manuals."

The year-long experiment, dubbed Omnifusion, is one phase of testing designed to help establish a fully operational FCS unit by 2014.

Testing last year focused on the brigade-size unit of action, and this year's focus is the division-level unit of employment.

Fort Benning is one element of the total experimental force, which encompasses almost every major Army command. Fort Knox, Ky., is taking the lead, Johnson said.

At Fort Benning, Soldier Battle Lab works hand in hand with the directorates of combat development and combined arms and tactics. The 29th Infantry Regiment's Experimental Force Company is providing Soldiers as test subjects, along with experts from Fort Sill and Fort Knox.

The depth of this phase of experimentation will progress until it culminates in the fall, officials said.

Experiment staff will collect data on mission effectiveness and lethality and get feedback from the test subjects. DCD then will analyze that information and incorporate its findings into new requirements documents.

Every year, the system will be refined, fine-tuned and tested in a constant drive toward the 2014 goal, Johnson said.

"This is a huge undertaking," said Capt. Clint Cox, one of the Soldiers participating in the testing. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. These Soldiers have a lot to give with their combat experience. They are helping shape the FCS Soldier."

(Editor's note: Nikki St. Amant writes for The Bayonet newspaper at Fort Benning.)

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www.ARMY.mil OCPA Public Affairs Home


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