Many organizations rely on user feedback to enhance their products or services and achieve project goals. The Marine Corps is no different.
In July, more than 50 subject matter experts, engineers and Marines congregated aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii to demonstrate the effectiveness and interoperability of nearly a dozen of Marine Corps Systems Command’s communication equipment and information systems.
The weeklong Network Integration Event allowed Marines to provide feedback about MCSC systems during a technology simulation that prepared the group for Island Marauder—a large-scale equipment demonstration involving a group of Marines and subject matter experts that helps the Corps inform future capability decisions.
Island Marauder 2019 takes place later this year.
“This integration event got us all together to link these systems and ensure the full network can support the operational requirements of the Marine Corps,” said Capt. Julian D’Orsaneo, MCSC’s project officer for Networking On-the-Move and the exercise director for Island Marauder. “We performed communication checks during the NIE to make sure we’re ready for the exercise.”
During the NIE, Marines and SMEs assessed various systems to ensure they work efficiently during Island Marauder and when the warfighter receives them. The technologies evaluated during the NIE included Networking On-the-Move, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld, the Target Handoff System version 2 and more.
We’re pushing the envelope in how much interoperability you’ll have between systems to prove we can do it. In the end, it will only make Marines more effective.Karl Eimers, the lead engineer for Island Marauder 2019
Identifying challenges, negotiating obstacles
While assessing the systems, the group participated in a scenario involving operational concepts developed by Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Development and Integration that will inform tactics, techniques and procedures upon which to base future doctrines.
In the scenario, Marines leveraged MCSC technology to transmit critical information to their commander in real-time, said Capt. Michael Trombitas, capabilities integration officer at CD&I. The commander can use this information to divert assets and prepare the battlespace to support an Expeditionary Landing Team.
“The commander can prepare the battlespace for the team’s landing and provide command and control, fire support and air assets when necessary,” said Trombitas.
CD&I aimed to create a challenging simulation conveying a situation Marines could experience during future conflicts, said Trombitas. Maj. Austin Bonner, MCSC’s team lead for Extensible MAGTF C2, confirmed the scenario is one the warfighter may see on the battlefield.
“We’re not just making up an unrealistic scenario we’d never see,” said Bonner. “This is one that pushes the bounds of what the warfighter can do with these systems.”
The scenario also pushed the bounds of the systems themselves. Karl Eimers, the lead engineer for Island Marauder 2019, said the simulation enabled engineers to employ the equipment and exchange data in a way not normally done by operational Marines.
“We’re pushing the envelope in how much interoperability you’ll have between systems to prove we can do it,” said Eimers. “In the end, it will only make Marines more effective.”
Testing the equipment to its limits led to minor networking problems, but the SMEs ultimately solved these issues and learned more about the systems. The challenges helped the engineers better understand what the technologies are capable of accomplishing, said Trombitas.
“We’ve had to work through a lot of challenges,” he said. “But that’s the point of this event—to identify those challenges and negotiate those obstacles.”
A key aspect of the NIE was the interactions. The NIE allowed Marines, engineers and other SMEs to ask questions to one another. The communication among MCSC engineers and fleet Marines is not an everyday occurrence, according to D’Orsaneo, and the group took advantage of the time together.
“Our engineers don’t always get a chance to interact with the fleet,” said D’Orsaneo. “Through this event, we can get these systems in the hands of Marines to see if the equipment can support their missions and meet the future fight.”
Eimers emphasized the importance of user feedback. He said Marines can offer opinions at this stage in the systems’ development that MCSC engineers can use to make necessary adjustments. Tweaking the equipment today can reduce the risk of system malfunction in the future.
“Receiving feedback allows engineers to polish systems to be immediately useable by Marines when fielded,” said Eimers.
System developers work tirelessly to create effective technologies that increase the warfighter’s lethality. Trombitas said feedback from Marines is “the most critical element” in supporting MAGTF missions.
By leveraging feedback, MCSC remains encouraged that the objectives the command aims to accomplish in the future are achievable and supportable. Marines at the NIE expressed excitement in demonstrating the gear at Island Marauder to ensure it supports their missions, said D’Orsaneo.
“Overall, this week has been positive,” he said. “With Marine involvement, we validated the overall objectives and training goals for Island Marauder.”