By Sgt. Todd Goodman
1st Infantry Division public affairs
Behind the Simulation Center on 65th Street and Warehouse Avenue, it looked like the county fair had set up shop, except the miniature horse and bearded lady had been replaced with loads of Humvees, tents, satellites and one very special piece of equipment during the brigade digital exercise, Oct. 15 to 19.
Members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division Headquarters, Special Troops Battalion and 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment participated on site. The other battalions also participated, albeit from their regular offices.
It was an exercise in communication designed to test whether soldiers in the tactical operations center effectively communicate, through secure lines, to the other battalions onsite as well as those in the brigade area of operation.
The purpose was to validate the Army Battle Command Systems. However, the main attraction was the Command Post of the Future.
“CPOF is relatively new technology that can see all of our ABCS talking to one another and brings them together on one platform,” Capt. Jon Erickson, brigade network manager, said. “It’s very useful in the field because it allows our commanders to manage the battlefield and maintain situational awareness.”
It is a complex system, but the best way to simplify it came when the head computer guru spoke.
“It has multiple … are you a gamer?” Maj. Patrick Dillinger, brigade S-6, Special Troops Battalion, asked. “You know how people play games and talk to each other during the game through voice over (Internet protocol) software?”
It is this type of software that is now being used by the military, he said.
The system is so new that it still has some deficiencies. For instance, some terminology isn’t what the military uses. ABCS uses acronyms that CPOF doesn’t and vice-versa, which confuses soldiers. CPOF also uses maps that differ in format to those used by ABCS.
“It’s like trying to get an iPod that plays an Mp4 to try to play an Mp3,” he said. “You first must convert it.”
Speaking of maps, CPOF can take a map, show it in 3-D, tilt it, rotate it and exaggerate it.
“I can tilt the map to show terrain,” Dillinger said. “I can enlarge the mountains 10 times and see my scout on top of the mountain, looking down on the enemy. Before, I would just see a scout from a normal view, looking down, but onto what?”
With CPOF, a user can take a line tool and measure the distance from the scout to the enemy. It also can assist with communication.
“For me in the S-6 world, I can do a ‘terrain look’, assess it, find where we can communicate,” he said. “CPOF will show, in red, areas where communication is bad and will show, in green, areas where the communication is good. In the red areas, it lets us know that we may have to switch from FM to satellite.”
Its advantages are many and the Col. John Spiszer, 3rd Brigade commander, is excited to refamiliarize himself with it. He had used it, albeit briefly, with the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad back in 2005. This time, instead of a video game analogy, a football one was used to describe it.
“We used it a couple of times for big operations,” Spiszer said. “You can use the John Madden drawing tool (telestrator) and it’s kind of like talking to someone in the same room. It brings people together remotely to plan and execute operations, providing good collaboration and understanding. I’m looking forward to having it at the battalion level on up — whereas it used to be only available at the brigade/division level.”
“CPOF can do a lot for everybody,” Dillinger said. “That is why everyone is saying, ‘I want a CPOF’. Right now, we have five at the brigade level and one at each battalion.”
Not bad, considering the future recently was only available at the higher levels.