November 22, 2013 -- By Staff Sgt. Candice Harrison, 24th Press Camp Headquarters, Fort Bliss, Texas
Under the direction of Marine Corps Systems Command’s Joint Battlefield Command-Platform Family of Systems program, approximately 40 Marines participated in JBC-P communication systems evaluations during the monthlong Network Integration Evaluation 14.1 held at Fort Bliss, Texas, and surrounding training areas including McGregor Range, N.M.
NIEs are held semi-annually to assess potential network capabilities in a robust operational environment to determine whether they perform as needed, conform to the network architecture and are interoperable with existing systems. The NIE ensures that the network satisfies the functional requirements of the force, and it relieves the end user of the technology integration burden.
JVB-P is one of the systems evaluated this year. It’s an upgrade of the existing Blue Force Tracker. It allows commanders and service members to track friendly forces and enables communication between services.
It took a lot of coordination between services and many organizations to make this evaluation happen.
"It took some great support across multiple organizations to pull this off," said Lt. Col. Andrew Chapman, MCSC’s NIE 14.1 test coordinator. "We very much appreciate everyone's participation."
“There has been a lot of detailed coordination, and a lot of good work going on,” added Maj. Stephen Musick, MCSC’s JBC-P project manager.
Within MCSC, Marine Air-Ground Task Force Command, Control and Communications provided the planning and execution support for systems supporting the test system. Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity provided a regimental command and control node for test purposes and subject matter experts, also called SMEs.
SMEs from the Army's Electronic Proving Ground and Software Engineering Directorate provided expertise and support, and the Army’s Brigade Modernization Command hosted NIE 14.1 and provided logistical support. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic mounted the provision test systems in vehicles and provided logistical and technical support, and Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane orchestrated the testing execution and collected data.
The Marines working the JCB-P equipment during the evaluation reported from 1st Marine Division. According to the program office, Marines have participated in NIE in the past, but only to a limited extent.
“This is not the first time we have been involved with NIE, but it is the first time we have had a significant number of Marines in play,” Musick said. “We are participating in the Army scenarios.”
The Marines participating in NIE 14.1 understand the importance of the evaluations and what their roles mean to service members on future battlefields.
“We definitely don’t want to just throw a new system that hasn’t been tested out into the fleet,” said Cpl. Kyle Denny, a light armored vehicle crewman with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Twentynine Palms, Calif. “If they do put it on vehicles that are going on deployment to Afghanistan or wherever, we want that system in full operation with all the bugs worked out.”
Denny, a native of Detroit who had been using the BFT regularly prior to arriving at NIE 14.1, said the new system decreases information latency, providing more accurate and timely situational awareness.
While the Marine presence at this NIE is at its all-time high, their involvement will continue to grow. Army Maj. Tamara Campbell, product manager for digital fires and situational awareness, estimated 500 Marines will be on the ground next year for NIE 14.2, a battalion-sized element.
(Bill Johnson-Miles, MCSC Corporate Communications, contributed to this article.)