USF: One team one fight
Unit Set Fielding eliminates "stovepipe fieldings"
By Kyle Bond and Claire Heininger
As they prepare for deployment, units cannot be distracted by logistical details.
However, in the past, the influx of sophisticated digital equipment and corresponding training did not always follow a set pattern. So-called “stovepipe fieldings” – delivered at the product owner's convenience instead of in accordance with a unit's training calendar – could cause complications in a unit's battle rhythm as it prepares to deploy.
This changed with the implementation of the Unit Set Fielding (USF) Model, a comprehensive process first implemented by the Army’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) to synchronize planning, fielding, training and reset of C4ISR capabilities. What began in fiscal year 2005 as an innovative, system of systems approach to fielding now has an established track record throughout the Army, aligning with the Army Force Generation model to support unit readiness and modernization.
At the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2011, more than two thirds of the active Army (134 of 198 units) had gone through the USF process. Another 47 percent of the Army National Guard (67 of 143 units), 18 percent of the Army Reserves (17 of 93 units) and 35 percent of Multi-Component units (six of 17 units) had also received unit set fieldings.
Now, as senior leaders focus on instilling balance and versatility in the force, USF is supporting those goals. The five-phased USF method spends units’ limited time wisely, while also ensuring that training takes place in a logical sequence, so users have confidence in using and thoroughly understand their equipment’s capabilities and interoperability as a system of systems.
In accordance with the USF model, system representatives from the Project Management (PM) offices meet with the unit in coordinated events to schedule fielding during regular operational training requirements. Systems fielding and training on various systems can then be prioritized according to a unit's availability. When representatives from different PMs and commands come together with the unit to determine the schedule, the event is called a synchronization conference, or “synch conference” for short.
“Synch conferences allow us to expedite the training, preparation and coordination process,” said Maj. Curtis Sawyer, a planner with the Department of the Army G-3 at Fort Bliss, Texas.
That up-front planning paves the way for efficient execution, Sawyer said.
The five phases of USF and the operations they support are:
- Phase I (Planning): During detailed fielding and new equipment training planning.
- Phase II (Execution): During fielding and training operations.
- Phase III (Reset, staging, onward movement and integration): While deploying, or at an Army combat training center where units receive their training prior to deployment.
- Phase IV (Deployment): For support of units when they are deployed.
- Phase V (Reset): During the unit’s reset upon return from deployment.
The phases of USF were originally managed entirely by PEO C3T. Today, PEO C3T leads the first three phases, and the Army’s Communications and Electronics Life Cycle Management Command (CECOM LCMC) leads phases IV and V.
One of the key elements of the USF process is the support provided to units by Digital System Engineers (DSEs) and Field Service Representatives (FSRs), who deploy with the unit and handle requests for assistance in theater. They provide tiered support to system users and some on-the-ground training.
Most Army maneuver units have battle-rostered DSEs and FSRs. Experts can also be airlifted or transported to the site of a pressing issue as required.
“While in theater, if a Soldier has a concern regarding a piece of equipment, there is a process in place to address it,” said Frank Connolly, a support contractor who is operations manager of the DSE program. “First, the Soldier would attempt to resolve the problem within his unit. Each unit has a help desk which is managed by the S6 [signal or communications officer] and supported by the DSE. Nine out of 10 times they address the issue.”
If the issue is not resolved at that level, the DSE can reach back through the Single Interface to the Field (SIF) Web portal to the PEO C3T Support Operations Center (SOC) at Fort Hood, Texas. Manned around the clock by capability experts including DSEs and Digital Master Gunners, the SOC provides additional knowledge and resources to resolve the problem.
The SIF serves as a hub for information and integrated support to the Warfighter and field support personnel, from home station garrison through training rotations and deployment. Through the SIF’s Unit Set Fielding module, participants in USF can track fielding schedules and other critical data.
“The reachback capability that the team provides is essential for the Warfighter to accomplish the mission,” Connolly said.
Continuous, coordinated support is also ensured through bi-weekly Battle Update Briefings, which bring together representatives from PEO C3T and the Army Team C4ISR community, HQ Department of the Army, Forces Command (FORSCOM), and the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), among other key stakeholders. It is during these meetings with Senior Leadership that the collective team raises unit concerns by region and combines resources to discuss and identify solutions for units’ outstanding issues.
Over time, the sequenced fielding and training process provided by USF aims to boost Soldiers’ troubleshooting abilities and decrease their reliance on over-the-shoulder training in theater. From start to finish, the USF model positions equipment the fielding and Resets communities assets in accordance with what is best for the unit and Army as a whole.