LandWarNet University to open

Army has earmarked $30 million for net-centric training facility

The Army will create a new facility, LandWarNet University, to train soldiers to operate mobile IP networks. The service has earmarked $30 million to update the training infrastructure and organization at the Army Signal Center in Fort Gordon, Ga., the site of the university.

Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle, the Army's chief information officer, announced the university's creation last month at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference in Washington, D.C.

The Army will use the university to train soldiers to operate, manage and defend the Joint Network Node (JNN), a new mobile, IP-based communications system that provides voice, video and data to soldiers on the battlefield, said Brig. Gen. Carroll Pollett, commanding general of the Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command and 9th Army Signal Command at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Pollett, who oversees the service's signal units, spoke about the initiative at the Milcom 2005 conference in Atlantic City, N.J., last month.

The 3rd Infantry Division is using JNN in Iraq, and the Army is equipping units with it servicewide, Pollett said.

The university also will train soldiers to operate the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), the Army's future mobile communications system scheduled for deployment later in the decade, Pollett said.

Boutelle and Pollett said the Army has adopted an all-IP-based warfighting communications strategy. The university will provide the education and training soldiers need to understand the intricacies of operating IP networks, they said.

Army officials stressed the need for a specialized training facility. "Army networks are complex stuff," said Brig. Gen. Randolph Strong, commander of the Army Signal Center.

The Army will use LandWarNet University to educate and train soldiers in a variety of technical communications skills, including network operations. Soldiers will learn to locate and share data under the military's Network-Centric Enterprise Services program, said Col. Ron Bouchard, deputy commander of the Army Signal Center.

Boutelle said earlier this year that soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division experienced problems in Iraq when they began using JNN because they need more training. The university appears to be a step toward addressing that shortfall.

The Army is phasing out Mobile Subscriber Equipment-Triservices Tactical terminals, which are components of a Cold War-era battlefield communications system that the service used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The service discovered that the system was too heavy to keep up with U.S. forces and failed to provide communications coverage in deserts and mountains. The Army is equipping units with JNN and eventually WIN-T as replacement systems.

The university is a key element of the 500-day plan initiated last month by the Army's CIO office. One of six objectives in that plan is to develop the Army's information technology and information management knowledge and skills.

According to the plan, the Army's CIO office will support the development and implementation of LandWarNet University. That office will also work with the Training and Doctrine Command to revamp soldier and civilian training in new network technologies.

A new university makes sense because the Army and other military services are moving to net-centric warfare, a doctrine of quickly accessing, sharing and sending data, said Fred Lewis, a retired Navy vice admiral and president of the National Training Systems Association, an industry trade group.

Lewis said the Army has always been on the leading edge in its training and education curriculum. "This is just another step on the way to the Future Combat System," he said, referring to the service's future fighting force.

Strong said the Army must master IP because the country's adversaries are using it. "It is everywhere," he said. "It is commercial off-the-shelf."

LandWarNet University, however, will give the Army an edge, Strong added. "IP is complex," he said. "We need to take the complex out."

A special kind of university

The Army listed five objectives for the new LandWarNet University, whose name derives from the service's term for its warfighting networks.

Those objectives are to:

  • Increase service members' understanding of network-centric operations.
  • Modernize training equipment.
  • Provide Web-based training.
  • Use instruction based on equipment simulation.
  • Improve senior leaders' education.

-- Frank Tiboni

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