Commander leads digital troops

Future Combat Systems (FCS), the centerpiece of the Army's transformation to the Objective Force, won't be ready until the end of the decade, but one colonel already is virtually commanding thousands of digital Objective Force troops.

Col. George Lockwood, commander of the 16th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Knox, Ky., is also the commander of the Objective Force's first unit of action — 3,499 digital troops.

Lockwood said his daily job is training officers, and the "first part of that training is exercising battle command."

"The [Objective Force] unit of action piece for me is battle command," Lockwood said during a Feb. 27 interview at the Association of the U.S. Army's winter symposium. "Anything with [command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] is where I get involved and how it relates to battle command and how we fight."

That means running digital experiments with virtual troops, which will directly impact how live soldiers are trained and fight through the development of tactics, techniques and procedures, said Gen. Kevin Byrnes, commander of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command.

The Objective Force is a strategy to develop advanced information technology tools, vehicles and weapons that will make the Army's forces better able to survive an all-out fight. The first unit is scheduled to be equipped in 2008, with initial operational capability by 2010.

FCS will equip vehicles with information and communications systems to give soldiers capabilities for command and control, surveillance and reconnaissance, direct and nonline-of-sight weapons firing, and personnel transport.

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