Behind digital battlefield lies digital logistics chain

Using a PC application, officers in the field can maintain personnel lists, build unit deployment schedules and create convoy plans, the Army's Gary Winkler says.

Henrik G. DeGyor

'This is a big difference from 1991, when we couldn't find anything.'

'Army's Kevin Carroll

From the dashboard PC in his Humvee, a soldier clicks on a map sent out by his commander. The map shows where he is, where he needs to be, where he can find friendly forces and where the enemy is.

The maps are part of the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below tactical communications system now in use by some units in Iraq and Kuwait to help soldiers travel safely by providing Global Positioning System data about friendly and enemy troop movements.

FBCB2 is one of several transportation and logistics systems the military is using to move equipment, supplies and personnel for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In late March, Army and Navy units began using notebook PCs and handheld scanners, called interrogators, in Kuwait to track cargo and warfighters from the time soldiers and sailors are deployed until they return home.

The PCs and scanners connect with the Transportation Coordinators'Automated Information for Movements System (TC-AIMS II), a joint Defense Department program that tracks people and equipment movements during war and peace.

'This is a big difference from 1991, when we couldn't find anything,' said Kevin Carroll, program executive officer for Army enterprise information systems.

Military officials said administrative operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom are greatly improved from 12 years ago, and streamlined logistics represent a 180-degree turnaround from the widely reported logistics fiascos of the first Gulf War.

During Operation Desert Storm, military services tracked cargo using a paper-laden process. Today, workers put radio frequency tags on every piece of Army equipment. The tag data is maintained in the Army's Intransit Visibility through Automatic Identification Technology database, so the service can monitor shipments. The system also stows personnel information taken from each soldier's Common Access Card, letting commanders track troops as they move across the battlefield.

'You can't put equipment in theater without a tag,' Carroll said. 'As the container travels to ports, handheld interrogators track it and read the data.'

But even with the many new logistics systems in use, the services still must manage several legacy systems.

The Standard Army Retail Supply System, Standard Army Maintenance System and Standard Property Book System Review are three massive legacy logistics supply and maintenance systems in use in southwest Asia.

Still running

'They're really the basis for how the Army supplies itself, maintains itself on the battlefield. They're being used in wartime just like they are in peacetime,' said Col. Stephen E. Broughall Jr., project manager for Army logistics information systems.

But the systems 'are not the most modern platforms we'd like to have them on,' Broughall said. Each runs a different operating system on different hardware. In two to three years, they will be merged into a single system, he said.

The Army's Transportation Information Systems Office is the lead for TC-AIMS II. Besides the 64 notebooks and scanners the Army has sent to Kuwait, hundreds more are in use in Hawaii, Washington and Germany to train units that could be deployed, said Gary Winkler, TC-AIMS project manager.

The first level, or Block 1, in Kuwait, has a client-server architecture with interfaces to 23 other DOD systems. Block 2'an online version with single sign-on through the Army Knowledge Online portal'is in development for fielding this summer.

The system lets soldiers use handheld scanners with portable bar code printers to read data stowed in military bar codes. The information is then uploaded to notebook PCs running Microsoft Windows 2000, Winkler said.

The PC application lets military officers maintain equipment and personnel lists, build unit deployment schedules, and create convoy plans, he said.


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