ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Nov. 04, 2015) — A flight of helicopters, part of an air cavalry squadron, are on a mission over Iraq when they observe enemy action on the ground. A size, activity, location, and time, or SALT, report is radioed to Battle Captain Seth Vieux: “Four insurgents are setting an improvised explosive device at this location grid, time now.”
The radio transmission comes through as Soldiers furiously transcribe the report.
The command post is immediately set into action as a buzz of information exchanges fill the room. As the situation develops, the brigade commander is briefed off written reports and verbal updates setting into motion a series of cross communications and command decisions.
This scenario, a daily occurrence during Vieux’s deployment to Iraq in 2005, is evolving. Now, instead of chatter there’s chat.
As key strokes replace voices, the command post battle rhythm is a stark difference from only a few years ago, said Vieux, a tactical systems branch chief and U.S. Training and Doctrine Command capabilities manager for Mission Command/Command Post on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
“The first time I saw chat was in 2005 in Iraq and it was something that was used, but not a major tool for leaders,” Vieux said. “However, it didn’t take long for it to become my primary way of communicating in the battle space and it’s been an evolution that everyone has embraced.”
Command post modernization is moving the noise of voice commands and situational awareness into a chat application, a delivered capability of the Command Post Computing Environment, or CP CE.
“In the past, the Tactical Operations Center [TOC] would have been a noisy environment with speakers blasting voice communication from numerous radio channels,” said Lt. Col. Michael Olmstead, product manager Joint Battle Command-Platform. “However, with chat being used as the primary digital communications system, the TOC is nearly silent.”
The use of chat has had two major positive impacts: radio networks are less cluttered with administrative chatter, allowing for important voice traffic to be heard clearly when it happens, and chat sessions are recorded.
“When enemy action is observed, reports are now put directly into a chat window that other battalion and task forces can see,” Vieux said. “Now, as a commander, as soon as I step into the CP, I can scroll up in the chat, see the SALT report, who is reporting, what resources are available and not available, as well as the exact time events occurred and critical information that allows mission success.”
As one component of the Army’s Common Operating Environment, or COE, chat continues to deliver integrated information sharing that meets commander’s needs for collaborative planning across all warfighting functions.
Vieux experienced first-hand the major operational benefits of the chat application during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2013, when chat replaced the “P” in his PACE, also known as Primary Alternate Contingent Emergency, communications plan. Used as the hub for major mission command information exchanges, chat gives commanders the ability to make rapid adjustments according to the combat situation in order to act decisively.
The path from Vieux’s early experiences in Iraq to more currently in Afghanistan highlight how CP improvements are providing greater command agility. Industry standard technologies are being leveraged to provide situational awareness to tactical military commanders. Mission Command provides a collaboration capability called the Universal Collaboration Bridge, or UCB, that integrates the different chat systems from the Army, Joint and Coalition partners.
As the future of CP technologies evolves, near term CP CE chat capabilities will continue to provide integrated chat capabilities without requiring proprietary chat servers or clients.
Overall, CP CEv3 will address the current challenges that commanders face and provide a common and shareable workspace with digital information from multiple systems to include: fires, logistics, intelligence, airspace management and maneuver for a complete common operating picture. Integrated with chat, this workspace will facilitate the rapid information sharing used for battle update briefs, rehearsals and field exercises.