ALPENA, Mich. — Among the many innovation ideas and collaborative efforts taking place behind scenes of Exercise Mobility Guardian 2021 is the initiative, Aerial Port of the Future.
Air Mobility Command is collaborating with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to modernize the logistics force, developing digitally-adept Airmen by updating processes which have remained largely unchanged for more than a decade.
Logistics Airmen and AFRL personnel tested two of their programs for the first time in an operational environment, Android Team Awareness Kit and Android Team Logistics Awareness Switch, the latter of which is one of several apps listed under the Digitally Optimized Geospatial and Tactical Airfield Guide, or DOGTAG.
“ATAK is basically a situational awareness tool to provide key insight into where people are on the flightline and what they’re doing,” said Alex Andrekanic, DOGTAG technical lead for the Warfighter Integration Branch, Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate.
Andrekanic noted that ATAK also provides an easy way to communicate with the Airmen out on the flightline, like texting in a group chat through devices such as iPads and smartphones.
“We’re closing the gap,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Decker, AMC Command Manager for Transportation Innovations, Systems and Futures. “Airmen are already using smartphones, so we just need to get this capability into the device in the Airmen’s hands.”
Initiated in 2019, DOGTAG is an applications suite currently in development to digitize routine, manual and analog processes performed everyday by Airmen in the logistics community. The suite currently contains nearly a dozen apps – each dedicated to digitizing a different process in the logistics community.
Within DOGTAG, the ATLAS app tracks cargo worldwide with advanced real-time analytics and data visualizations.
Similar to tracking systems like FedEx or Amazon, the app enables Mobility Airmen to see the real-time status updates of equipment at any time or place.
“Instead of going out of your way to call a forward base, you can go on the app and find out ‘Oh it’s arrived, it’s actually being deplaned right now,’” Andrekanic said.
Using LTE signals, the app connects with sandwich-sized black ATLAS boxes which are attached to cargo, enabling real-time tracking capabilities.
ATLAS devices were placed on different equipment during the exercise, ranging from casual cargo loads to high-value assets like the Army’s High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during their transportation on AMC aircraft.
“A lot of our testing for these devices have been in a laboratory setting where we control everything,” Andrekanic said. “Here at the exercise, where it’s a lot more hectic and fluid, we are getting to see how Airmen react when they use these tools in a real world situation.”
Mobility Guardian served as a safe space to test technologies and learn from failures, ultimately equipping Airmen to combine digital literacy and innovative ideas to solve complex problems.
“The point is not to just create a ‘comfortable’ exercise, but an opportunity to challenge the participants by trying new things, experimenting with how we do business, even if that means we fail to achieve some of our tactical objectives during the exercise,” said Lt. Col. Brian Thomasson, exercise director for Mobility Guardian 2021. We want to fail forward during MG21 so that we’re ready for complex challenges when we see them during combat.”