FORT PICKETT, Va. –The 29th Infantry Division conducted final testing and integration of its computer systems and section operations July 11-24, 2015, at Fort Pickett, Va., in preparation for a warfighter exercise to be held at Camp Atterbury, Ind., later in the year. The November exercise, similar to a final exam, will test the full capabilities of the division and its ability to operate as a command headquarters.
“The intent was to integrate all of our systems and show they were able to communicate effectively,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Ruppel-Lee, a knowledge management specialist for the exercise. “Our primary purpose was to synchronize and coordinate all our physical equipment…allowing information to broadcast back and forth.”
In the simulation, the 29th deployed to the fictitious country of Atropia near the Caspian Sea to coordinate relief efforts and deter aggression from Arianna – a hostile neighbor country. Soldiers worked around-the-clock to set up, validate and run the telecommunications infrastructure that made command and control of subordinate elements possible.
All of the systems were talking by the end, said Ruppel-Lee when discussing the challenges of synchronizing multiple systems on such a tight schedule. Command Post of the Future is a system used during the training exercise to share, transmit and analyze mission data. The Tactical Air Integration System was able to talk and send maneuver graphics to the CPOF system and then transfer it to his computer so he could understand, he added.
The exercise used computer simulations to replicate the challenges of operating in a combat environment. At each stage, new challenges were introduced to test the readiness of equipment and personnel. Ultimately, the shared challenges should bring all staff together into a cohesive group. Based on the after-action review, the 29th was successful.
“We operated on a high level and focused on staff integration as our ultimate goal,” Ruppel-Lee said. “The exercise helped focus people on what we need to do as a staff to coordinate together.”
One of the assets the 29th brought to the exercise was the broad array of civilian skills of its Soldiers.
“The 29th Infantry Division is unique as a National Guard organization for it draws many of its officers and Soldiers from the National Capitol Region,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bartlett, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 29th Infantry Division. “It therefore obtains much of its extracurricular talent from the many men and women that serve our federal government in many capacities, from supporting the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, intelligence community, lobbyist organizations, contractors, and many other civil agencies and private sector experiences that make our division, the HHB, and our Soldiers as a whole, the very best that serve in the Virginia and Maryland Army National Guard.”
The 29th Infantry Division is comprised of Soldiers from both the Maryland and Virginia Army National Guard. The division was established in 1917, fought in World War I, was part of the first assault wave during D-Day on June 6, 1944, participated in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo and served a two-tour rotation in Afghanistan from 2010-2012.
In addition to its combat training, the 29th Infantry Division currently provides the Domestic All-Hazards Response Team in FEMA Regions 1 through 5 (states east of the Mississippi). In this role, the 29th is prepared to assist the National Guard and governors during a natural or man-made incident. For fiscal years 2016 and 2017, the 29th Infantry Division will serve as headquarters for Command and Control Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Response Element-B. The division will provide staff augmentation and support in the event of a catastrophic chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear emergency.