Building an agile, adaptive Army: NIE 17.2 prepares Soldiers for future combat

Soldiers assigned to 1st Bn., 320th Field Artillery Regt., 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div., conduct a three-dimensional map briefing prior to a command post movement during Network Integration Evaluation 17.2 here July 23.

Soldiers assigned to 1st Bn., 320th Field Artillery Regt., 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div., conduct a three-dimensional map briefing prior to a command post movement during Network Integration Evaluation 17.2 here July 23. Courtesy photo.

By Devon L. Suits, Army Media Production:

(El Paso, Texas, Aug.10, 2017)

As potential adversaries continue to develop their ability to engage with U.S. forces across multiple domains, the Army’s future operating environment will be highly contested, congested and lethal. That’s why exercises such as the Network Integration Evaluation 17.2 are vital for building an agile and adaptive Army by integrating and testing new network equipment that will be used in the field.

In addition, the exercise here July 11 through 30 created an opportunity for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and other participating units to increase their readiness through realistic and demanding scenarios against peer or near-peer threats.

Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), prepare equipment for sling-load operations during the Network Integration Evaluation 17.2 here July 24. Photo by Pvt. Deomontez Duncan, 24th Press Camp Headquarters.

For the 2nd BCT, 101st Abn., preparation and training for NIE started while they conducted operations in Iraq, according to Col. Joseph E. Escandon, commander, 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. While deployed, they found innovative ways to use older technology – compared to the equipment being tested at NIE 17.2 – to enable Mission Command, he said.

“When 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne, returned in January, they had a lot of combat experience in the use of mission command systems and how to maximize its effect,” he said. “They were using the network to gain a position of advantage in what they were doing.”

Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (Air Assault), provide security during a simulated force-on-force training exercise during Network Integration Evaluation 17.2 here July 15. Photo by Pfc. Joseph Friend, 55th Combat Camera.

Tactical, mobile and agile

Training for NIE was in full swing in March, as the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command established a forward presence at Fort Campbell, Ky., to integrate with the brigade.

Under the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, JMC executes realistic and rigorous exercises to provide Soldier feedback on emerging concepts and capabilities that will improve the combat effectiveness of the joint force.

“Compared to previous NIEs, (JMC) has deliberately carved out time for the brigade to increase readiness,” said Col. Charles Roede, the JMC deputy commander. “We want to make sure that they leave a better-trained unit and set them up for success.”

Army senior leaders have said future operations will require a need for decentralized command and control centers and disbursed formations of Soldiers. To meet the needs of the warfighter, JMC has created a similar training environment.

A CH-47 Chinook flown by Soldiers assigned to the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Abn. Div. (Air Assault), sling-loads the Tactical Control Node-Light at Fort Campbell, Ky., June 15. The training was part of their preparation for the upcoming Network Integration Exercise 17.2 at Fort Bliss. Photo by Sgt. Bradford Alex, 24th Press Camp Headquarters.

“(NIE) helps Soldiers prepare for the fight we are going to have in the future,” Escandon said. “We are not going to fly into a country and walk onto a forward operating base.

“Out here, we’re tactical. Soldiers are walking around in full battle rattle,” he added. “We haven’t brought out any sleeping tents or cots. We are getting back to basic Soldier field-craft and learning how to adapt to our environment.”

Soldiers assigned to the 1st Bn., 26th Inf. Regt., 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (Air Assault), participate in a simulated force on force exercise during the Network Integration Exercise 17.2 here July 20. Photo by Pfc. Joseph Friend, 55th Combat Camera.

Throughout the exercise area of responsibility, freshly dug foxholes and a crude perimeter of razor wire appeared to be the only line of defense between the brigade and the opposing forces.

“If the Soldiers are uncomfortable out there while having to move while fighting, I think that is what the chief of staff of the Army envisions what the future fight is going to look like,” Roede said. “We are trying to create a combat-training-center-caliber experience for the testing unit.”

Operating in multiple domains

JMC also evaluated how a brigade operates in a dynamic battlefield.

To try and replicate parts of the multi-domain environment, the brigade provided Soldiers who participated as opposition forces. After extensive training from JMC, the Training and Doctrine Command G-2 (Intelligence) OPFOR directorate certified these forces.

Throughout the evaluation, the OPFOR team, augmented by local personnel, contested the ground and air domains through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-tank guided missiles, upgraded rocket propelled grenades and anti-aircraft missiles.

In addition, the brigade experienced the effects of offensive electromagnetic capabilities: jammers, sensors, radars and other cyber capabilities in an attempt to degrade, disrupt or exploit their operations.

As a unit is going through a jamming process, it provides them with an opportunity to exercise their primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency communications plan, said Col. Bert Shell, JMC’s chief of the Network Integration Division.

“The benefits of going through that and seeing it in real time are invaluable to a unit,” he said.

The way ahead

The rise of urbanization and the growth of megacities have made the operational environment even more complex, according to Douglas L. Fletcher, JMC chief of staff.

The focus of JMC is to stay ahead of the competition and continue to adapt and innovate.

“When you look at the ever-growing urbanization worldwide, the megacity phenomena presents a dynamic problem set for future military operations,” Shell said. “We need a communications network that is agile and can operate and enable mission command in any environment.”