JWID leader digs for 'gold nugget' technologies

Col. Rock Schmidt, director of the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (JWID) '96, promises this year's premier Defense Department demonstration of advanced communications and computer technologies will more than live up to a bit of superlative Army Airborne and Ranger slang -"hooah," meaning not just good but great.

Schmidt, who wears his Ranger buzz cut with pride and "loves jumping out of airplanes," brings both his own form of hooah as well as a wealth of relevant experience to the JWID job, where his formal title is deputy director of joint C4 warfighting under the Army's Director of Information Systems for Command, Control, Communications and Computers (DISC4). The services rotate leadership of the annual JWID exercises, with the Army serving as the lead this year and the U.S. Central Command (Centcom), Macdill Air Force Base, Fla., acting as host command.

A career signal officer with service in a number of Army signal companies and battalions, Schmidt also has a wealth of joint experience, including a stint as commander of the Joint Communications Unit, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during Operation Desert Storm. "I spent a total of six years in Special Ops," Schmidt said, "and during that time I worked with people from all the services and developed some good insights into what works and what doesn't work."

That tour has paid off over the past year as Schmidt laid the groundwork for JWID '96. "I run into people from that assignment all the time," with former colleagues participating in JWID '96 either still in uniform "or as vendors helping to put together some of our demonstrations." The relationships he formed with Centcom personnel, the senior command in Desert Storm, also have helped with the JWID job, Schmidt added.

During his JSOC tour, Schmidt not only participated in Desert Storm but also the Panamanian operation, giving him insight as an "operator and user into what the warfighter needs and that's what JWID '96 is focused on: technologies for the warfighter." Schmidt said he and the JWID '96 team want to identify what he called "gold nugget" technologies that "we could put into the Joint Requirements Oversight Council for rapid acquisition so we can get them out to the field as soon as possible."

Because JWID offers industry, users and operators the ability to test systems and technologies in a "low-threat environment," Schmidt emphasized that he and the JWID '96 team "do not expect all the demos to go exactly as planned. JWID gives us a chance to test things, to restart the demo and see what works. JWID is a learning environment."

It also provides the opportunity to showcase emerging to leading-edge technologies to a wide range of flag officers, top DOD civilians and their staffs, Schmidt said, with the East Coast location of JWID '96 making it easier for these top leaders to participate.

JWID '96 will address one of the key communications challenges facing U.S. forces today, Schmidt said - "how to accommodate sending our growing data needs over our existing pipes." JWID will address this problem - faced daily by U.S. forces deployed in Bosnia -through a demonstration of applying Asynchronous Transfer Mode technology, originally developed for high-bandwidth Sonet circuits, to the fractional T-1 circuits common in today's theater tactical communications systems. JWID '96 will also feature a Multi-Level Security demonstration that Schmidt believes "can solve some, but not all, of the problems of MLS."

JWID '96 has only 11 technical objectives encompassing 42 demonstrations - a far smaller number than previous JWIDs - in what Schmidt characterized as a "deliberate attempt to keep this as focused as possible. Not only do we have a smaller number of demonstrations, we have a smaller number of sites, and we think this will make it easier for us to pick out the gold nuggets."

Schmidt began working on JWID in July 1995, and he will stay on the DISC4 staff until next July, when he leaves for Fort Bragg, N.C., to take command of the 35th Signal Brigade. Asked if he is looking forward to leaving the Pentagon, Schmidt diplomatically answered, "It's always good to be with the soldiers."

A return to Fort Bragg also means a return to one of his natural elements: soaring through the air after jumping out of a plane. Although he spends his free time engaged in other pursuits, including running and family picnics, he draws the line at recreational camping, having done enough of that professionally.

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