In the Boots of a Soldier-Industry’s Experience

Autryville, NC- Halt, wedge formation, and move forward are just some of the hand signals Soldiers train on in a squad. They train for hours, learning to shoot, move, and communicate as a squad, but they don’t learn it overnight. This was no different for a few industry partner personnel who walked in the boots of Soldiers for a few days, when Team Integrated Visual Augmentation System (Team IVAS) conducted a Greening Event at The Range Complex (TRC) May 15-17, 2019. The Greening Event teaches industry partners battle drills that close combat unit Soldiers experience during training.

Industry partners and cadre pose after day one of training during a Greening Event in Autryville, N.C. May 15-17, 2019. The Greening Event teaches industry partners battle drills that close combat unit Soldiers experience during training.

The Army has partnered with industry to develop the IVAS, an innovative system designed to incorporate head, body, and weapon technologies on individual Soldiers. It’s a single platform that allows Soldiers and Marines to fight, rehearse and train day and night. However, industry has very little to no military training, so their basic understanding of how Soldiers operate is very basic.

“Industry personnel have limited exposure to Soldiers and the way they operate. The greening event provided a much needed look behind the curtain-giving a brief, but broad overview to the types of activities Soldiers will face in combat,” said John Bucklew, training coordinator with Team IVAS at Fort Belvoir, Va.

“There is a big gap between the realities lived by Soldiers and the average day of a civilian,” said Edson Dos Santos, senior software engineer with industry in Redmond, Washington.

“So unless you actively pursue and understand the life of a warfighter; it is hard to grasp the needs of a warfighter without walking in their shoes,” he said.

The first day started with each participant getting classroom instruction on the basics of leadership positions and responsibilities; squad formations, and various hand signals. Following classroom instruction, a squad leader and two team leaders were chosen to proceed with the next set of instructions, moving as a squad during battle drills. Throughout the next few days, the participants fired weapons from different positions, conducted night movements using night vision and cleared rooms in a shoothouse, along with other drills.

Jon McCoy, principal software engineer with industry in Redmond, said that over the course of three short days of training he found himself standing, kneeling, in the prone position, on his back, belly crawling, running, jumping, patrolling at night, outdoors, indoors and in numerous other positions a Soldier would encounter.

Industry partners practice what they have learned after being instructed on how to shoot, move, and communicate as a squad during a Greening Event in Autryville, N.C. May 15-17, 2019. The Greening Event teaches industry partners battle drills that close combat unit Soldiers experience during training.

“These activities really reinforced the fact that Soldiers have many jobs that demand rugged hardware and equipment that can withstand the elements, but also enable optimal performance in any physical position,” he said.

Battle drills describe how platoons and squads rapidly react in commonly encountered situations. They require leaders to make quick decisions rapidly and with brief oral orders.

“There is no doubt that they (Industry Partner) needed all the information we put out,” said Victor Combes, lead new equipment training (NET) instructor with Team IVAS at Fayetteville, N.C.

“They were talking to each other on how important this training was and that each person involved with IVAS should attend this class,” he said.

These battle drills are important for platoons and squads because they are the necessary building blocks for elements to conduct more complex combat operations.

Soldiers perform battle drills constantly to build muscle memory, ensuring that a squad can perform these tasks with minimal communication under stress in battle. Industry participants were shocked at how challenging it was to communicate and disseminate information in these scenarios.

Kim Scobee, a program manager with Industry in Redmond, said that being able to get a basic understanding of the communication process that happens during battle drills was important.

“[IVAS] is being set up to change the way the Army trains and survives in the field. This greening allowed us to visibly see that potential impact in person. It also got the wheels turning as to a variety of things the team may not have been thinking about yet,” she said.

Industry partners are providing rear cover after disarming enemies during a Greening Event in Autryville, N.C. May 15-17, 2019. The Greening Event teaches industry partners battle drills that close combat unit Soldiers experience during training.

“During the battle drill trainings, communication was slow as team leaders would meet with the squad leader and gather information, and then one-by-one distribute that information back to the individual Soldiers in the team,” McCoy said.

“Bringing communications to every Soldier can increase the speed at which information flows, but also keep leaders from putting themselves in potentially more dangerous situations; IVAS could do that, its communications could change the game,” he said.

Mark Weiss, modelmaker-cnc lead with Industry out of Mountain View, California, said, “Our Soldiers are having to adapt to cumbersome technology and invent ways of how to use it effectively. We have an opportunity to revolutionize how the modern-day Soldier communicates, trains and navigates using our product.”

Allowing industry designers to experience a fraction of what Soldiers experience helps them understand requirements and build lightweight equipment that is durable, easy to use, and reliable.

“You really have no idea how bulky and awkward the equipment is until you go through the motions in person,” Weiss said.

“Putting that gear on and running drills most of the day really does open your eyes as to what a Soldier has to adapt to. The weight of the equipment was tiring by the end of the day, and we only had a portion of the weight they carry,” he said.

The industry participants said this event gave them a firsthand perspective on how technology they develop could be used in real-world situations. Team IVAS is scheduled to perform their second Soldier Touch Point in the fall of 2019. Using their new perspective, industry partners will be able to enhance the capabilities they have already placed into IVAS.

Industry partners are stacking up their squad to move through and clear the remaining rooms of a shoot house during a Greening Event in Autryville, N.C. May 15-17, 2019. The Greening Event teaches industry partners battle drills that close combat unit Soldiers experience during training.

 

About Alton Stewart

Alton Stewart is the Acting Director of Public Affairs for PEO Soldier. An Army veteran of the Gulf War, he has been with PEO Soldier since 2003.