DAHLGREN, Va. – A team of scientists and engineers remotely working from Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) ensured the success of this year’s Valiant Shield exercise taking place in the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility.
The Virginia based team’s remote support of Valiant Shield 2020 sharpened the ability of maritime commanders to orchestrate long-range engagements against land, surface, air and subsurface threats using a combination of Navy, joint and national-strategic assets.
“I am proud of how this team came together during unprecedented times to support Sailors despite travel restrictions, often changing fleet and sponsor requirements, and normal stresses which accompany support of live forces operating at a real-world tempo,” said NSWCDD mission engineer Joseph Pack in an interview after the exercise concluded on Sept. 25.
The NSWCDD team supported Valiant Shield joint operations at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace over the course of 12 days. More than 11,000 Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen synchronized to train in a real-world environment, demonstrating their readiness to respond to any contingency at a moment’s notice.
“For our team to accomplish this distributed exercise during the COVID-19 restrictions, long hours, away from their families was no small task,” said Josh Cusworth, NSWCDD deputy director for expeditionary warfare, one of three NSWCDD engineers deemed mission essential for their deployment to Hawaii in support of the exercise. Upon arrival, the trio conducted a mandatory 17-day restriction of movement and quarantine.
Due to the restrictions, Cusworth’s teammates from other organizations deployed to Guam and aboard a Navy surface combatant while other groups deployed to New Mexico. “Being successful during Valiant Shield demonstrates our team’s dedication and resilience,” he said. “Due to these circumstances, we improved our remote connections and capabilities to establish a node at Dahlgren to sync into the exercise and collect data.”
Although COVID-19 restrictions presented new obstacles, the Dahlgren team – in conjunction with other organizations – pushed forward to support the exercise that enhances U.S. military training with a high-end joint all-domain training environment using live-virtual-constructive training enablers to simulate the live tactical forces with constructive, synthetic opposing forces.
“The Warfare Systems Engineering Division was impacted significantly by COVID-19, forcing us to act and think differently,” said Pack, regarding the command’s planning and execution efforts supporting the biannual training exercise held in a real-world environment – scaled down from previous years due to the pandemic.
Dahlgren’s Valiant Shield activities comprised of two types of teams. The first team operated in-person to run the modeling and simulation tools, collect data and conduct liaison activities with other organizations at the Joint Exercise Control Group at the Pacific Warfighting Center in Honolulu. The second team operated at the NSWCDD Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility to support the fully informed data collection and analysis.
“Valiant Shield, as a series of events, is wildly successful and invaluable to both fleet and acquisition stakeholders,” said Pack. “There is simply no lab, test range or simulation capable of replicating precisely what is seen live during these events.”
Remote teams stationed at NSWCDD – supporting the exercise via web-based tools, chat services and analytical tools – demonstrated the viability of supporting live forces during major exercises without requiring excessive travel expenses or loss to schedule due to administrative requirements.
“Our biggest strategic accomplishment was supporting live forces, both afloat and at terrestrial sites, using a combined in-person and local operations team,” said Pack. “This is the first time we led a disaggregated team, spanning 20 time zones from Guam to Hawaii to White Sands in New Mexico to Dahlgren. The potential this opens up for greater integration of NSWCDD activities during live events is huge since it requires participation for every organization that wants exercise data.”
Moving forward, the team endeavors to continue engaging in live events to provide better exposure to Dahlgren corporately while supporting live-virtual-constructive integration efforts.
“Success in Valiant Shield or any other exercise requires analysis on specific prototypes as well as the joint force’s capabilities and gaps,” said Cusworth, a retired Marine Corps major. “In addition, the ‘so what’ factor of that analysis enables commanders to make informed decisions on how to increase their forces’ capabilities.”
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