Transformational aviation systems, such as the Joint Strike Fighter and aviation command and control (C2) family of systems, will bring revolutionary capabilities that will enable the aviation combat element (ACE) commander’s access to information—fused and distributed—as never before. But without the foundational knowledge and tools to process this information into actions, ACE commanders stand to be lost in a sea of indecipherable data points. Realizing this, the Deputy Commandant for Aviation (DC(A)) has focused on the “command” side of the C2 equation to provide the commander that foundation and the tools he needs to fight the ACE.
Processes and Teams
At the July 2007 Marine Air Control Group (MACG) Operational Advisory Group (OAG), the MACG Charter was modified to create a forum that encompassed more than MACG participants and instead addressed the full spectrum of Marine aviation C2. The MACG OAG was renamed the “Marine Aviation Command and Control OAG,” and an aviation command working committee (ACWC) was added to the OAG framework. This committee is comprised of aviators and C2 personnel to strengthen the partnership between aviators and the C2 community. The intent of the ACWC is to serve as a platform for identifying and prioritizing issues that directly impact aviation command functions and responsibilities, to include current and operational capabilities and requirements, standardization, training, readiness, and safety.
The ACWC will allow for open discussion of issues affecting the ACE commander and the tools at his disposal to exercise command through the Marine air command and control system (MACCS). It serves as the venue to introduce, refine, and implement best of breed practices and, since its inception, has made considerable progress on the path forward to improving command education. The ACWC also has produced tools, including the site command primer, the battle command display, and the development of the aviation career progression module (ACPM), that will exponentially improve the effectiveness of the ACE.
The ACPM was created to correct a recognized deficiency in aviation training. Past versions of an aviator’s Training and Readiness (T&R) Manual have done a superb job of training aviators to fly and fight their aircraft; however, training those pilots to understand the full complexity and value of the MACCS to squadron, group, or wing operations and preparing them for ACE command were insufficient. As a result, DC(A) initiated the ACPM as one of the cross-functional teams of the ACWC. The purpose of the ACPM is to identify, assess, and validate the knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience required to train 75XXs for ACE command; analyze and develop training requirements; and design, develop, implement, and evaluate an ACPM.
Since the spring of 2008 there has been significant progress in improving aviator training. Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS–1) and Training and Education Command, Aviation Training Branch (TECom (ATB)), in conjunction Headquarters Marine Corps, have completed the first phase in developing the ACPM. The most recent version of Navy/Marine Corps 3500.14B, T&R Program Manual, introduced the ACPM and laid the foundation for all type/model/series T&Rs to begin training. Phase I in implementing the ACPM includes a series of classes, focused on company grade aviators, that standardizes foundational understanding of Marine aviation functions and organizations and begins the development of future ACE commanders. Through the MAWTS–1 media site, most of the 28 courses are available and include a video of the instructor presenting the material and the Microsoft PowerPoint presentation that allows a student to view the class at his own pace. All of these classes may be found at https://www.intranet.tecom.usmc.mil/sites/mawts1/default.aspx. (A common access card reader is required to access the site.) Additionally, Phase I included the MAWTS–1 MEU ACE Commanders Course. To date there have been two courses, in April and November 2009.
With the implementation of Phase I, Marine aviation is well on its way to improving the training of our aviators to assume staff positions and ACE command. But what about the other billets that aviators hold? What training does an operations officer receive prior to assuming the billet? How about the aviators who are assigned to work in the tactical air command center (TACC)? Depending on where you are assigned, the answer could be very little or quite a bit of the necessary training. As the ACPM matures and moves on to Phase II, these are the issues that will be discussed and a roadmap laid out to ensure that aviators who fill those billets are set up for success.
In November 2009 the ACWC cross-functional team, led by TECom (ATB), finished Phase II of the APCM. The desired end state is a training program that creates a foundation for an aviator’s career, preparing those aviators to succeed as they progress to staff and command billets at the squadron, group, wing, division, and MEF levels.
Tools and Systems
Within the TACC alone, there are no less than 15 informational systems, applications, and data sources available to the commander. Marine C2 lacks a single display giving a snapshot for situational awareness of the commander’s asset status and assessment of ability to accomplish the assigned mission with the resources available. To this end the ACWC socialized, refined, and disseminated the battle command display (BCD) template and associated “ACE Commander’s Primer on Battle Command Displays.”
The BCD is a web-based performance management system that displays critical capabilities, by location and function, specifically tailored to satisfy a commander’s information requirements in a collaborative environment shared among the commander, subordinate commanders, and staff principals. This standardized modular display can be configured for use at any level of command to meet assigned missions across the spectrum of operations.
Specifically tailored for the commander, it displays the status of his command’s key critical capabilities by function and location. The capabilities are graphically presented as colored “stoplights” (green, yellow, red) that communicate their status. Green means mission capable, yellow means mission capable with some discrepancies, and red means nonmission capable without help from higher headquarters. Currently, most of the BCD’s data (and trends) are fed by informed subject matter experts, manually inputted by the ACE staff and subordinate commanders. The true value of the BCD is its ability to provide collaborative interaction between the ACE commander and his subordinate commanders and staff principals. Although the BCD is a standardized display, it is a configurable modular display that can be tailored for both the level of command (ACE, site command/group, and squadron) and for any portion of the mission set spectrum (conventional warfare, stability operations, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, or garrison). It is not a package but is rather a template, one that allows commanders at all levels to tailor the display to show their own mission critical capabilities.
The BCD is currently utilized throughout each Marine aircraft wing and has recently been adopted by the MEB supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. As it can be utilized on any web-based server, it can be hosted on the combat operation centers that have been distributed throughout the Marine aircraft wings. Additionally, the common aviation C2 system will continue BCD development as part of its decision support and command tools.