By Amanda Kim Stairrett
and Eloise Lundgren
Fort Hood Herald and U.S. Army
Operational Test Command
Forward Operational Assessment teams from Army Test and Evaluation Command have embedded with units in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait to collect data on critical Army systems since 2005.
Soldiers and civilians talk to deployed soldiers and leaders about the effectiveness and reliability of the equipment they're using, Col. Gregory Brockman, Team XII commander, said in October.
"We interviewed soldiers about protection gear for soldiers and vehicles, detection systems for improvised explosive devices, and recovery systems for Strykers and tanks," he said.
The majority of the missions were focused on Iraq since the first deployment of a team.
Beginning with Team XII, leaders recognized the need to expand the teams' to Afghanistan. The team returned in September from a six-month deployment, and was recognized in late October during an awards ceremony at West Fort Hood, where U.S. Army Operational Command is based.
Team XIII, led by Col. Brian Dosa, returned last weekend from a deployment.
The shift of resources and personnel from Iraq to Afghanistan began in September 2009 as a result of the teams' workloads and "our mission to look at new technologies deployed to support our war fighters," Dosa said.
Dosa is also director of the Maneuver and Maneuver Support Test Directorate.
Two-thirds of the systems Team XIII were to evaluate were in Afghanistan and leaders decided to shift the Forward Operational Assessment command post there in late October 2009.
The team deployed two months earlier, sending five to Afghanistan, two to Kuwait and 12 to Iraq. Key leaders first made the moves to Afghanistan and by mid-January 2010, the rest of the command post was relocated to Kabul with the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan headquarters, Dosa said.
Transportation and communications were more challenging in Afghanistan, which does not have as robust an infrastructure as Iraq, Dosa said.
"We have planned for some extra travel days when we make our data collection visits to remote combat outposts and to various forward operating bases," he said. "A little patience goes a long way and we have done just fine."
While only five people changed locations, the command team was then "located where the majority of new technology insertions were," the colonel said.
"This better positioned the (Forward Operational Assessment) team to execute its mission to collect data on newly deployed technologies and provide real time feedback on system performance to senior Army leaders, acquisition decision makers and the war fighter," Dosa added.
A two-person data collection team was located at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, in support of Regional Command-South. Four were at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, where two collected date from Combined Joint Task Force 82 and Regional Command-East. The other half of the team worked with the 401st Army Field Sustainment Brigade.
A team was located at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, with the 3rd U.S. Army, and another supported U.S. Forces-Iraq.
Team XIII began its transition with Team XIV in late February.
"They have gone through extensive preparation training on (Forward Operational Assessment) operations, but like any military transition there will be some unique lessons to pass on," Dosa said.
One of the lessons the team passed on were unique theater trends. Iraq is in a consolidation phase and units are reorganizing. Afghanistan is "truly a joint and NATO mission and there are some unique lessons to understand when operating in that environment," Dosa said.
Travel, a large part of a team's daily life, was also a unique lesson to share, and Team XIII shared a lot of lessons learned during a mid-January video teleconference.
The teams' work is valued and requested by senior Army leaders in the United States and overseas, Dosa said. They have relied on teams for the last five years to "objectively tell the story of equipment in the hands of soldiers."
"For us realizing the importance of our work and seeing that our reports have been used to make improvements to equipment and resourcing is a real source of pride and motivation," Dosa said.