Wartime squeezes IT training

Combined Arms Support Command

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — The Army is using more than 4,000 computers and 100 servers in southwest Asia to run an assortment of logistics systems with local and worldwide data feeds.

That information technology arsenal requires myriad military, civilian and vendor personnel to operate, manage and maintain it, and also often requires new users to receive accelerated training courses after they arrive, said Maj. Forrest Burke, chief of logistics information management here for the Coalition Forces Land Component Command.

"There are six warehouses at camps Doha and Arifjan and we're keeping an eye on them continuously," said Chief Warrant Officer Tony Ocasio of the Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Va., during a March 30 interview. "Before, they were heads without a body, and we helped grow the body and get them stood up. "We show them how to receive, store and issue supplies and different commodities."

Ocasio said that implementing the systems and training the necessary personnel at the warehouses was a 90-day process, and has now "matured to the point where they're in autopilot mode, but there are occasional hiccups we respond to."

"It's a combination of technology and management," he said, adding that his team has also recently picked up the mission of dealing with IT equipment snafus, including some simple fixes like updating antiquated CPUs or operating systems.

"Many of the units doing this are reservists, so there is a training and experience shortfall," he said. "You have [postal workers, accountants, etc.] in a tactical situation, so we're doing 'over-the-shoulder' training and using our digital classroom here."

The digital classroom houses more than a dozen laptop computers and about half as many radio frequency identification tag handheld readers, and features a large dry-erase board at the head of the rectangular classroom.

Maj. Ken Tillman, a reservist in the 337th Theater Support Command, is the coordinator for the Integrated Logistics Analysis Program and Joint Deployment Logistical Model in Burke's shop. He helps ensure not only that those systems and the corresponding vendors work together to help form the logistics common operating picture, but also sets up training for the soldiers that need to use them.

"Everything is compressed," Tillman said. "We do a week's worth of training in a day, and a day's worth in two hours."

Elsewhere, the Army's Movement Tracking System (MTS), which helps the logistics community precisely track and communicate with tactical vehicles, also has seen its training cycles shortened, said retired Army Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Broyles, the MTS program management office representative here from Fort Lee, Va.

The Army can get an MTS unit installed and a basic training session completed in about four hours, Broyles said. In peacetime, the training session would be longer and would include instructions for more advanced messaging, Burke added.

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