AUGUSTA, Ga. — To ensure soldiers are equipped with the right communications tools, U.S. Army network experts are testing gear in radically different environments and among troops employing specialty tactics.

Portions of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii and the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina recently received tailored packages of radios, variable height antennas and the like — cumulatively known as the integrated tactical network.

The goal, according to Col. Shermoan Daiyaan, a radio expert with the Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, is to collect feedback from both, compare the results and, ultimately, use the data to better inform Army decisions.

“We are in two different regions, two different fighting styles, two different types of demands and two different mission sets,” Daiyaan told C4ISRNET on Aug. 11 ahead of this week’s AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference in Georgia. “That will show the [ability to tailor equipment for] both units.”

The executive office, known as PEO C3T, develops, deploys and supports networking gear across the service.

“The 25th, they do things like island hopping; they’re a lot more dispersed. So how do they use these capabilities on watercraft, when they’re coming ashore or commanding from offshore?” Daiyaan said. “The 82nd, they are joint forcible entry, and they take airfields, right? It’s a different mix; not one size fits all.”

As the Army readies for a potential conflict in the Indo-Pacific region, where it could clash with China, or across Europe, where fighting could break out with Russia, it is placing growing emphasis on the division — a formation of about 15,000 soldiers capable of long-term fighting and maintenance.

The preparations are motivating a pivot to the so-called division as a unit of action network design — a connectivity scaffold that will take months of deliberation, real-world experimentation and tweaking to construct.

PEO C3T and Network Cross-Functional Team leadership unveiled the initiative earlier this year at Fort Myer, Virginia.

“We have to have assured voice communications between commanders, we have to have a common operating picture, focusing on the ‘common,’ and then we have to have digital fires,” Maj. Gen. Jeth Rey, the cross-functional team director, said at the time. Modernization of the network is one of six service priorities. Others include improving air and missile defense as well as long-range precision fires.

“As we pivoted to the division as the unit of action, the questions kept coming,” he said. “We all came to the conclusion that we needed a better — a different — approach in order to iterate on getting the equipment into the hands of soldiers a little faster.”

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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