DONA ANA RANGE, N.M. – More than 3,800 soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, deployed to the field Oct. 15 to begin the evaluation of capabilities in a tactical environment.
This evaluation is being conducted during Network Integration Evaluation 13.1, which is the fourth in a series of soldier-led exercises that provides a venue for integrated evaluation of capabilities in a tactical context with feedback directly from the soldier-level.
According to senior leaders, the goal of the NIEs is to integrate and mature the Army’s tactical network and mission command tools in order to fundamentally change the way they deliver capabilities to the Army.
“The biggest lessons we’ve learned is the faster you get a new solution in the hands of a soldier, the sooner you can stop doing something that does not have a lot of merit and the sooner you can accelerate a capability solution that’s got real opportunities – all to the effect of getting our soldiers the tools they need to do their mission better,” said Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker, deputy commanding general of futures and director of Army Capabilities Integration Center.
For five weeks, soldiers will engage in key missions during NIE 13.1, such as connecting soldiers to the network, building the common operational picture and refining mounted and dismounted mission command on the move.
Capt. Stephen Ash, a signal officer for 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2/1 AD, said the end state of the exercise is to identify system faults and verify that systems work. Ash, who participated in the three previous NIEs, said he is optimistic about the evaluation.
“It’s not really a failure if a system doesn’t work if you know why, and if you know how to fix it and you have a way to fix it,” said Ash. “That’s why we’re out here, it’s to play with new systems that the Army is thinking about buying.“
Ash said the challenge at each echelon, from squad, platoon, company or battalion level is to meet test requirements while still training soldiers. Soldiers can only accomplish individual and collective tasks in a field environment, he added.
Planners said the exercise consists of different mission scenarios including establishing a command post, reconnaissance, battle drills and missions at each echelon performed across all warfighting functions.
“My hope is … that the soldiers won’t even know that it’s a test,” said Ash. “This is a field exercise. If you take away all the gizmos we’re just out here doing what soldiers do – coming to the field and accomplishing missions.”
Spc. Ishanay Spillman from 47th Brigade Support Battalion, who is also participating in her fourth NIE, said she benefits from the exercise because she hones her skills in providing logistical support and that in turn benefits soldiers.
“We’re important,” said Spillman. “We supply their fuel, their food, their transportation, we supply everything.”
Soldiers like Pvt. Courtney Raymond, also from 47th BSB, who are involved with the NIE for the first time, said they are excited to be part of a unit in which soldier feedback is considered so important in the modernization of the Army.
“I think it’s good that they are trying to better support the Army by testing new equipment and seeing what works better and what doesn’t,” said Raymond.