Army looks to set up command posts on the fly

CERDEC is developing a wireless, voice activated system that can help expeditionary forces set up on the go.

The Army, looking to get leaner in how it deploys expeditionary forces, recently showed off a few ways smaller units can set up a command post on the go, with a command post tent that can be set up within seconds and a command post that can be run without wires or, for that matter, computer keyboards.

The Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center recently put some of its command post, or CP, hardware and software applications on display at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

"Right now, our command posts are large and commanders are restrained to their CPs to do mission planning and operations," Lisa Heidelberg, chief of CERDEC’s Mission Command Capabilities Division, said in an Army report. "To get to an expeditionary force, you need to enable the commander to be mobile, to be able to command from outside the CP."

The first step in getting a command post in place quickly is setting up a tent that can host the communications infrastructure. The team at the division’s Expeditionary Command Post Capabilities has come up with an ultralight expeditionary CP tent that can fit into a Humvee—and eventually, into the next-generation Joint Light Tactical Vehicle—and be set up in a matter of seconds, CERDEC said.

The next step is to do without the wires and cables that can not only clutter up a command post but also slow down the process of getting it up and running. The team led by Tyler Barton, project lead for Expeditionary Command Post Capabilities, solved that challenge by getting rid of a 200-pound transition box loaded with video cables and replacing it with an app called the Display Viewer Application, which all computers via a wireless local area network.

Another time-saver was eliminating the reliance on keyboards, which a team led by Cyndi Carpenter, chief of the division's Data Engineering Branch, did with a voice interaction app known as SMASH, for, Multimodal, Android Service for Human-Computer Interaction. SMASH, which is a completely government-developed app and is used throughout the Army and DOD, uses voice recognition, which saves troops from the difficult, at times impossible, job of trying to type in commands while dismounted and on patrol.

The Army sees SMASH as a key to battlefield communications, having incorporated the battlefield symbology found in the joint Military Standards 2525D specifications, giving soldiers the potential ability to use up to 40,000 commands verbally. While memorizing 40,000 commands is not realistic, CERDEC said that personnel could become familiar with the commands they’re likely to need and even add their own commands into the system.

CERDEC’s efforts are the most recent endeavors into creating more mobile command posts for the Army, which is increasingly seen as a priority in a changing threat landscape against asymmetrical adversaries. Among recent projects are some vehicle-mounted and other command post options developed under the Expeditionary Command Post Capabilities project and several expeditionary sustainment commands, modular command posts that can operate independently or in concert with each other.