The Mississippi Army National Guard (MSARNG) is working to save the lives of warfighters by helping units respond to the dynamic, modern threats of multi-domain warfare in an innovative National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) training program at Camp Shelby.
NSIN Adaptive Threat Force (ATF) trains warfighters against realistic, adaptive, and cohesive opponents that reflect the modern capabilities of near-peer threats. ATF provides opportunities for armed forces to “practice the real thing before they do it” on the battlefield.
“As a former United States Marine and a current Mississippi Army National Guardsman, I know the impact innovative programs like the Adaptive Threat Force have on the warfighter,” said U.S. Congressman Steven Palazzo, Mississippi 4th District. “I am proud to have brought this national program to Mississippi as we continue to make Camp Shelby a one-of-a-kind destination for U.S. Military innovation and experimentation.”
As advancements in technology and tactics change the rules and locations of warfare, the lives and equipment of warfighters are at a greater risk. For instance, the invasion of Ukraine demonstrates the need for an urgent response to manage the signature of warfighters and their equipment in a multi-domain, hybrid assault. In Ukraine, battlefields exist on land, air, sea, space, electromagnetic spectrums, information networks, and everywhere above, between, and below these domains. In an age of hybrid, multi-domain warfare, force cohesion can be broken through information operations on social media; cyber-attacks and electrotonic warfare degradation on infrastructure and communications networks; and space-based reconnaissance or unmanned systems detecting, tracking, and targeting troop and equipment location, motion, and formation.
ATF is the only Department of Defense (DoD) innovation training program integrating with current military training capabilities and experimenting within all domains of warfighting at the edge of current conflict challenges. Current Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) directorates already educate units on opposing-force capabilities and practice friendly forces mirroring opponents. ATF is building on these directorates at Camp Shelby by testing, evaluating, and integrating technology capabilities into warfighter training that reflect the lethal and evolving nature of hybrid and multi-domain warfare and opponents.
Camp Shelby fosters an entrepreneurial culture for collaboration among soldiers, students, and startups. ATF designs interactive startup- and student-led simulations, integrations, and technology demonstrations into the base’s training. Since its inception, ATF has trained over 15,000 warfighters.
“We’re moving globally away from a terrorism fight to a force-on-force fight with a near-peer competitor,” said MSARNG Maj. Gen. Janson D. Boyles. “We’ve got to be ready to meet those types of threats from those near-peer competitors, and this company employs a lot of those techniques [in] our training.”
Integrating Innovative Training Technology at Camp Shelby
ATF offers warfighters access to train with and against ground-breaking technologies and strategies from adversaries, ensuring forces under pressure will have the discipline and experience to think through their decisions and to make optimal choices when facing new threats. Through a series of exercises and demonstrations reflecting realistic emerging threats and the dynamics of adversarial environments, ATF ensures warfighters “make their mistakes in training, not combat.”
For the warfighters at Camp Shelby, ATF acts like a professional boxer training for a championship by fighting against elite-caliber fighters instead of a bag. ATF prepares soldiers with professionalized and optimized opposition-force capabilities. For instance, instead of simply shooting at standing targets for training, ATF develops real-world scenarios- even tailoring scenarios and responses to the strategies of unique adversaries- where forces must react as they would on the battlefield.
By engaging in ATF’s accessible, efficient, and comprehensive training, warfighters are transformed into competent sparring partners for friendly forces to compete against. Units learn to critically think through problems as an adversary would, developing alternative decision-making processes. Moreover, ATF-trained warfighters become aware of their own biases and can return to their units and share the knowledge and experiences they gained, advancing the proficiencies of their unit and their leaders, even innovating the requirements for warfighter education and training.
“We are a tech-driven organization. If we do not innovate emerging technology into our tactics, we will fail to deliver our soldiers the operational capabilities they need to succeed,” said MSARNG Col. John C. Nipp.
Students from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) enrolled in NSIN Hacking for Defense (H4D)- a course where students receive college credit to solve real-world national security problems- visited Camp Shelby to work alongside service members and ATF.
One USM H4D team helped develop new training methods to meet the challenges that cyber and electromagnetic threats pose to warfighters. Through customer discovery efforts in the DoD, the students designed a new training approach and discovered additional funding opportunities for Camp Shelby to build and train warfighters for real-world cyber and electronic warfare.
Another H4D team improved equipment and clothing logistics accountability at Camp Shelby’s Central Issue Facility (CIF). At the time, CIF cost MSARNG valuable resources replacing inventory instead of investing in warfighter readiness. The H4D team streamlined logistics for Camp Shelby, identifying the most effective warehouse locations for equipment and compensating for CIF’s small number of staff. As a result, the new process eased new employees’ learning curve with standard operating procedures and created accountability chains over inventory to help Camp Shelby get the right tools in the hands of soldiers.
ATF’s partnerships with startups and small businesses allow new strategies and tactics to be tested in real battlefield scenarios, providing fresh and consistently challenging training.
To prepare warfighters for hybrid, multi-domain scenarios, ATF tests commercial capabilities with units to substitute adversarial capabilities. ATF brings to the national defense industrial base startups and small businesses interested in opportunities to serve warfighters and work with the military, but don’t know the opportunities that exist, or don’t have the resources to navigate the defense contracting process. By seeking entrepreneurs across the U.S. who share the same spirit of innovation as Camp Shelby, ATF provides soldiers with consistent, new technology. These commercial capabilities also help showcase in real scenarios demonstrations of how alternative solutions to existing gaps, aging, or obsolete systems used by warfighters will perform.
ATF has integrated various capabilities through industry and tools available from the DoD. For example, ATF tests and fields commercial solutions such as camouflage materials capable of masking soldiers from electromagnetic or thermal threats and devices allowing units to safely communicate when their technology is jammed. Other technologies ATF has fielded and tested include: a software application for maneuvering and mapping while under threat; a battery-powered small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) with sensor capabilities that can be carried in a soldier’s backpack; and an electronic device to geo-locate objects and track directions.
The Future for ATF and Camp Shelby
Camp Shelby sprawls across 136,000 acres in south Mississippi, offering a Joint National Training Capability (JNTC) garrison with heavy- and light-maneuver areas for training over 120,000 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine personnel annually. With an innovation-permissive environment led by Col. Rick Weaver and Command Sgt. Maj. Ricky Davis, Camp Shelby exudes a “can do” attitude and a genuine concern to solve warfighter pain points by fielding and testing the very best new technology available for multi-domain training with ATF.
Hybrid, multi-domain warfare has marked a new reality that countries must innovate and adapt to defend against modern threats to the safety of lives across the world. As DoD moves to invest time and resources into solving military pain points, ATF and Camp Shelby have created the blueprint for developing a culture of innovation and for building relationships with non-traditional problem solvers. ATF, Camp Shelby, and civilians are focused on the same mission- developing the premier hybrid, multi-domain warfare training center in the U.S.
In June 2022, Col. Nipp, Camp Shelby, and ATF are conducting an electronic warfare experiment where two opposing forces will adapt to a dynamic situation and employ reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition assets to gain an advantage over one another and disrupt or destroy the other’s capacity to take or hold a critical piece of terrain. ATF has integrated various capabilities from startups and students into the event, and, as always, Camp Shelby’s leadership is focused on innovating technology that can work to save and to improve the lives of warfighters.
It only takes one minute watching soldiers and civilians at Camp Shelby interact with Col. Nipp to witness the faith, trust, and respect they have for him, his vision, and the demonstrated value ATF training is having with the MSARNG.
“I hope they believe that there was someone who truly cared and wanted to provide the most adaptive training environment for our warfighters, which set the conditions for their success while in support of the defense of this nation,” said Col. Nipp.
Camp Shelby is one of five pilot sites for the U.S. Army’s Synthetic Training Environment (STE) integration network. This network is transported across the Defense Research Engineering Network (DREN), which was developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering Research Development Center (ERDC) out of Vicksburg, Mississippi. DREN capabilities connect Camp Shelby warfighters to legacy cyber test, evaluation, and training ranges. From the ground to the air, Camp Shelby’s STE is on the cutting edge of innovation. Mississippi is the only state in the nation where every training site is Joint National Training Capability (JNTC) certified. With a strategic port located in Gulfport, Mississippi, MSARNG has a network of JNTC training sites across the state such as Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC), Camp Shelby, Thompson Field, Key Field and Camp McCain, making it a premier location for brigade and below multi-domain experimentation and training.
National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) is a government program office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OSD(R&E)) that collaborates with major universities and the venture community to develop solutions that drive national security innovation. We operate three portfolios of programs and services: National Service, Collaboration, and Acceleration. Together, these portfolios form a pipeline of activities and solutions that accelerate the pace of defense innovation.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about NSIN or ATF.