Hundreds of Army tactical vehicles get tech upgrades

FORT BLISS, Texas. Hundreds of Army tactical vehicles are getting upgrades within the Integration Motor Pool at Fort Bliss, Texas, in preparation of the Army's on-the-move communications Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.2 coming this spring.

NIEs and Army Warfighting Assessments (AWAs) are complementary events set to continually assess and rapidly improve the Army's communications network -- such as systems that are on to help soldiers stay connected as they move over vast distances and rough terrain.

The happen in two phases. The first phase, dubbed Golden Vehicle Build, was finished last month and consists of creating unique prototype vehicles that carry the specific systems to be evaluated in each or AWA event. The second phase, called Fleet Build, is when the Golden Vehicle prototypes are used as the physical blueprint for the rest of the fleet.

During NIE16.2 Fleet Build, two medic soldiers inspect their vehicle after arriving at the Integration Motor Pool at Fort Bliss, Texas. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army.

"Not only do we do this in a short span of time, but we also do this twice a year. It may be tough but we keep in mind our mission is to get this equipment into the hands of our Soldiers," says Col. Terrece Harris, director, Capability Package.

The Capability Package Directorate, known as CPD, has the responsibility of integrating network equipment onto the vehicles used during NIE and AWA. It is part of the Army's System of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate, which performs the NIEs and synchronized fielding for the network Capability Sets that are proven during the events.

Participating NIE vehicles, equipment, and systems are moved to Fort Bliss from organizations nationwide that support Army modernization. CPD brings all the efforts together by integrating platforms with communications systems to make them functional for the NIE's array of operational tests, evaluations, risk reduction events, and demonstrations.

"Without vehicles and associated equipment, there is no NIE," said Bob Rivas, chief of CPD's System Integration Division. "We build, install, and integrate all the systems onto platforms that are going to be in the field for Soldiers to operate."

While the vehicles are being integrated, soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division will learn how to operate the technologies via New Equipment Training, or NET. Multiple classes are given by Program Executive Offices, Project Managers, and industry representatives to instruct soldiers on how to properly use their equipment. Once the vehicles are built, the users get more hands-on training and reinforcement for operational evaluations.

Training is a joint effort between acquisition organizations and the Brigade Modernization Command. Together they determine which Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) need to be trained on each system, to best maximize the skills of soldiers. Bringing Army and industry instructors and soldiers together enables more feedback from an experienced soldier's perspective.

The spring NIEs will focus on formal evaluations, while the fall AWAs will have a more experimental environment to shape concepts and requirements.

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