CWID demos emerging technologies for warfighters

By Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher | NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | June 21, 2010

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. –U.S. Northern Command, in partnership with the city of Colorado Springs and the Defense Information Systems Agency, participated in the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration on June 16.

CWID is part exercise, part vendor demonstration, where companies offering new technologies can demonstrate their products in a realistic environment.

The exercise in Colorado Springs took the form of a bomb and chemical attack that destroyed communication towers and took out cell phone communication. While local firefighters worked to decontaminate police officers caught in the chemical blast, others, including members of USNORTHCOM, used new technology provided by vendors to reestablish local communications.

“What we’re testing now is new, emerging technologies,” said Chris Lambert, exercise coordinator and Chief of Enterprise Capabilities for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and USNORTHCOM. “We’re testing them in an operational environment, and we’re actually testing it working between federal and local authorities to make sure we have interoperability.”

While the exercise portion played by USNORTHCOM and local agencies is only one day, it is only a small part of a much larger exercise, said Army Col. Mike Curry, NORAD and USNORTHCOM deputy communications officer.

“It’s a Chairman’s (of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) exercise, it’s a Coalition exercise done all over the world,” Curry said. “So it really does test the interoperability among Coalition partners. The unique aspect that NORAD and NORTHCOM brings to it is that we have tied in our homeland defense mission into it. This gives us an opportunity to not only test the technology, but to develop relationships between us and the first responders such as the Colorado Springs Fire Department and Police Department.”

The new technology being tested ranged from a cell phone that could switch between cell and satellite with the push of a button to aerostat balloons that provided thermal video similar to the kind provided by MQ-1 Predator remote-piloted vehicles.

Norman Jones, a DISA contractor representing the agency at CWID, said the goal wasn’t to have vendor experts show off their products but to put those products in the hands of military members and let them evaluate their performance for themselves.

“What we’re trying to do is take ordinary military people, give them a quick class and then have them use it in this scenario,” he said. “Then we get feedback from them, write up what worked, what didn’t work and their recommendations. It’s not so much a demonstration, but an assessment. We want as much as possible to take the people trained on this equipment and have them put their hands in their pockets. We want the guys in BDUs doing as much as possible.”One of those military members who got to use the equipment was Army Pfc. Aaron Garlington, 206th Army Liaison Team from Fort Jackson, S.C. He and several other Soldiers were tasked to set up a portable cell phone tower and launch an aerostat balloon during the exercise. He said the mission was an exciting opportunity.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said with a grin. “You get to see where the future of the Army is headed. Technology nowadays is what wins wars. I’m a human intelligence collector, being able to get information from satellites and balloon surveillance systems would be a great help to my field. So getting to see what I might be able to use in the future gives me hope that we can bring this war to a close faster.”