Soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, began honing their skills at the Mission Training Center the first week in August, in preparation for the upcoming Network Integration Evaluation 13.1 exercise scheduled for the fall.
Attached to the Brigade Modernization Command, the soldiers are tasked with testing and evaluating equipment the Army is considering purchasing for future operations.
Although Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, 13.1 is still several months out, the unit has begun their train-up process and is integrating various new systems and new command post applications to be able to run their command posts during the NIE exercise.
“Right now we are in a command post exercise so that we can get our elements together, brush off the dust from the last NIE and start getting through our battle drills,” said Capt. Benjamin Horner, the company commander for A Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment.
The soldiers are configuring their company command posts to achieve a better understanding of all the systems they are using. According to their leadership, they are developing tactics, techniques and procedures and are refining their standard operating procedures on how they run their command posts.
Soldiers said they feel they are receiving realistic training inside the Mission Training Center, or MTC, and are confident it is preparing them effectively for when they deploy to the field. The systems are located inside separate rooms inside the center, and are all integrated with each other, said Horner.
“We don’t have to take our company command post out because we have so many systems that are internet-based that are linked in the network that are all integrated,” said Horner. “So it’s just a matter of taking data from the soldier level and pushing it all the way through. It’s basically just putting through those processes. It doesn’t mean we’ve got to go 30 miles into the woods just to go test this [equipment] or to train for this.”
Spec. Keith Rhodes, a company operations intelligence support operator from C Co., 1-35th AR, said working inside the MTC gives soldiers a building block. Some of the scenarios are based on real-life events, and soldiers are also using lessons learned from the previous NIE 12.2 exercise, he added.
“The building gives you a scenario where you can work out the kinks and smooth out your communications issues,” said Rhodes. “We are sharing information between the companies to see what is the most effective way a [command post] should be set up, [to include] the integration of the new systems so that everything runs as it should.”
Capt. Christopher Combest, from the Brigade Modernization Integration Division, is a system manager for the MTC. He said he feels the facility is a great capability to familiarize the Soldiers with the equipment.
“When I was a company commander four years ago in Iraq, we trained up at Fort Stewart, [Ga.] to go out into the field,” said Combest. “We sat in the field and [used] our radios. It was hot, it was sweaty, it was miserable and that was good training. But the reality is that this is a company commander and his command post team.”
Combest said the soldiers are not skipping the field. The MTC is preparing them for the outdoors and it is allowing them to enhance their communications skills, which is key to saving soldiers’ lives in the battlefield, he added.
Soldiers said they are hit with different variables simultaneously in combat. If someone sustains an injury or comes in contact with the enemy, he or she must be able to communicate with their higher headquarters to receive assistance, guidance or instructions. Soldiers, said Combest, need to be able to call for help.
“This isn’t the Civil War. This isn’t World War II. You’re not charging up. You are running a small business with [about two hundred] people and you’re trying to make sure everything is moving as it should be,” said Combest. “That requires communication and using all the tools necessary, your intelligence tools, your fires networks, talking to your battalion commander, talking to your platoons that are lower than you, talking laterally to your fellow company commanders so that the battalion mission can move forward. But you’ve got to be in command and control, that’s what command is.”