News: 'Iron Brigade' helps test new equipment for the Army of tomorrow
Story by Spc. Adam Garlington
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. - Soldiers with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, started the testing and evaluation phase of Network Integration Evaluation 13.1 at McGregor Range Complex, N.M., Oct. 29.
“We help test systems and capabilities for the Army to ensure that they’re ready to place in the hands of the warfighter,” Maj. Ralph Radka, 2nd BCT, 1st Arm. Div. executive officer, said. “This is a great opportunity for the Army to validate systems before they make a decision to purchase the systems.”
According to Radka, the testing and evaluation phase of NIE 13.1 will last approximately three weeks, and the soldiers will provide feedback on equipment in an operational setting to determine if the equipment helps accomplish their mission.
First Lt. Travis Mount, an executive officer with 1st Battalion, 35th Arm. Regiment, said his unit will conduct up to 16 weekly missions, such as reconnaissance, indirect fire support and reacting to contact, and provide feedback on the Sidewinder accessory/Rifleman Radio combination, Manpack Radio, Side Falcon Soldier Radio Waveform, Nett Warrior, and Joint Battle Command-Platform.
He added that the soldiers will encounter rugged terrain and complex attacks from opposing forces during missions to help evaluate the equipment in realistic battlefield conditions.
“It does remind me of Afghanistan,” said Sgt. Isidro Ayala, 1st Bn., 35th Arm. Regt., track mechanic. “Afghanistan had more roads because of the small towns. Out here it’s treacherous, especially at night. You kick up a lot of dust going through these wadis; that is why the CV boots are getting torn on the trucks.”
After soldiers complete their missions, Mount said, they provide feedback to the chain-of-command about any technical issues with the equipment, and the chain-of-command reports the issues through the civilian channels. Then, the field service representatives help the soldiers troubleshoot problems with the equipment.
Soldiers’ feedback from NIE 13.1 will help develop future Army tactics, techniques and procedures for the equipment being tested and evaluated during this exercise. Radka stated, “The ultimate thing we provide is soldier feedback. As a brigade, we provide candid, honest and unbiased feedback.”
He explained that the equipment may work right and meet all Army specifications and requirements, but it is not useful if the Soldier doesn’t use the equipment because it’s too heavy or difficult to operate. “The soldier isn’t going to use it if it doesn’t help him do his job.”