GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – After 18 years, Combined Endeavor is no longer just a 10-nation workshop conducting point to radio testing.
Starting in 1995, nations began sending their signal soldiers to the exercise to learn their jobs and become familiar with tactics, techniques and procedures.
Throughout the years, they began working on voice and data communications, which led to data networks in the 1990s, said Roger Nelan, Combined Endeavor 2012 technical director.
Now, there are more than 40 countries analyzing fully converged networks with command and control systems integration.
“Every year we’ve come back together, we’ve gotten a little more complicated,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jamie Gateau, CE12 Strategic Plans.
Not only has the exercise grown from a small number of people to more than a thousand participants, but there is also an extraordinarily complicated order of battle with command and control systems, battle command systems and all the things participative nations take to the fight.
“We’ve seen individual nations become more and more advanced in their own capabilities,” said Gateau. “Instead of showing up with older technologies or simple systems, they now train, plan and execute, even within their national boundaries, with pretty sophisticated computer systems.”
When nations get together in the field, instead of assuming everyone will get on the lead nation’s communication systems, everyone brings their own equipment.
“We then have to figure out how to confederate all those computer systems’ capabilities,” said Gateau. “We have the interoperability problem that we’ve been solving since this was a radio exercise. Those problems still exist because getting my command and control systems and your command and control systems to talk to one another is a complicated thing.”
On top of that, there are also governance problems, doctrine issues and information assurance concerns for these professionals to consider.
“Interoperability is no longer just about getting my telephone and your telephone to sync up and talk to each other,” Gateau said. “I also have to get my information assurance process and your information assurance process to work together correctly.”
Gateau said that in the future, Joining Membership and Exiting Instructions (JMEI) will be developed to allow nations to quickly accomplish processes and procedures on the battlefield.
“Everyone will come and already know what the processes and procedures will be,” he said. “They will already know the configurations; and we will be able to very rapidly stand up a coalition capability and go forward.”
Irish Commandant Elizabeth O’Neill, CE12 deputy director for strategic planning and future operations, said a mini version of this exercise is conducted in Ireland annually. The main reason her team brings their own communications systems to Combined Endeavor is to get ready for overseas deployments.
“We work mainly with the Fins,” O’Neill said. “Before the Fins and Irish can deploy into theater, we have to open up our interoperability guide, speak with people who’ve been to Combined Endeavor and see how our equipments work together.”
CE12 is the world’s largest multinational command, control, communications and computer systems exercise designed to build and enhance communications and network interoperability.
For more information on the exercise, contact the U.S. European Command Public Affairs office at (+49) 0711-680-6618 or email the Media Operations team at firstname.lastname@example.org.