Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Indiana National Guard takes part Bold Quest 12-1, tests digital communication technologies

By Army Sgt. Will Hill, Indiana National Guard

EDINBURGH, Ind. - Indiana Army and Air National Guard members have been taking part in Bold Quest 12-1, a two-week air combat assessment exercise that focuses on testing digitally aided close air support technologies to reduce friendly fire incidents, enhance combat effectiveness, and increase situational awareness on the battlefield.

Held at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, and other training venues across Indiana, the exercise includes participants from throughout the U.S. military as well as from 12 foreign nations as well.

"Bold Quest is important on several different levels, said Army Maj. Gen. Omer Tooley, assistant adjutant general for the Indiana Army National Guard. “It represents what we consider to be the required testing of the 21st century in order to provide relevant capabilities to our young men and women going in harm's way."

As part of that, the exercise works to bring together different technologies and simulates wartime conditions to ensure coalition communication systems can effectively work between platforms.

"In a sense, what they are doing is taking these technologies that are present in various services as well as other countries and are actually putting them in a simulated and highly realistic environment to see if they actually work together," said Tooley, adding that one of the main goals is to work to eliminate the possibility of friendly fire incidents.

"Bold Quest is a unique area for arena testing and validation that our systems are compatible with U.S. systems and also other coalition systems so that we know when we meet in theater we can share the same information and eliminate fratricide," said Norwegian army Maj. Tommy Myrvoll, of the Norwegian Battle Lab.

And Camp Atterbury worked well to do just that.

"The Atterbury-Muscatatuck complex is designed and built to specifically support this type of event," said Tooley. "Where you are bringing these high-payoff technologies into a very realistic complex environment and working through the issues as to whether or not they are going to actually function as planned."

The Indiana Army National Guard’s 76th Special Troops Battalion and the Indiana Air National Guard's 122nd Fighter Wing were among the units to take part in the exercise and have benefited from that experience.

For Army Staff Sgt. Warren Sherman, the training noncommissioned officer with the unmanned aerial system platoon, B Company, 76th STB, this meant working with members of the Marines and the RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle.
"We have learned a lot here from the Marines on their Shadow system in regards to how they set up their equipment for operations, to how they troubleshoot issues and [compared our troubleshooting techniques]," he said. "I feel that we both have learned from each other."

Additional testing during the exercise consisted of taking commercial, off-the-shelf cellular technologies and incorporating that into a tactical military communications network.

"The advantage of what we are doing is leveraging commercial technology,"
said Army Maj. David Hernandez, deputy branch chief, Bold Quest future capabilities assessment branch. "With the low cost [of cellular] hand held devices as compared to a radio, we can provide one to each Soldier."

That can give servicemembers a greater sense of situational awareness, communication abilities and access to updated information.

"Each Soldier can have a common operating picture device or a friendly force tracking device in their hands,” said Hernandez. “They can also do voice [communication] and they can also do streaming video. This provides that Soldier a key advantage as opposed to our enemies in the battlefield."

And that is all part of the goal of the exercise and working toward eliminating potential incidents of fratricide, said Hernandez.