CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. -- The Joint Staff, along with its coalition partners, successfully concluded Bold Quest (BQ) 20.2, November 4, 2020. This capability demonstration and assessment was designed to help improve combat effectiveness by demonstrating solutions to the needs of the U.S. services and partner nations in a coalition operationally representative environment. As the Joint Staff works towards the future of the joint force, BQ enables U.S. forces and our partners to pool their resources, information and experience in a ‘coalition of the willing’ which exceeds what any single participant could achieve individually.
“Traditionally Bold Quest has anywhere between a thousand and fifteen-thousand analytical objectives being pursued by our partner nations,” says Emilie Reitz, a data integration analyst with the J6 Joint Fires Integration Division and the data collection manager for Bold Quest. “If we had not had COVID this year we were going to be having up to nineteen coalition partners come participate. This year we have 5 partner nations that are networked in. They are not here physically but are here in terms of data and operations.”
The on-site participants of BQ20.2 were kept safe with a comprehensive and thorough medical screening process and a controlled entry protocol supported by Airmen assigned to the Virginia Air National Guard 192nd Medical Group and a security team of Navy Reservists.
“We did a lot of planning prior to the event,” said Air National Guard Capt. Layla Rifai, a physician assistant with the 192nd Air Medical Group. “We set up a process for daily screenings and a COVID-19 questionnaire. We have done a table-top exercise that has let us develop some innovative standard operating procedures, pre-planned responses and a participant information sheet that will help guide us through this exercise as well as future exercises,” says Rifai.
The purpose of the Bold Quest series of events is to improve interoperability across systems, services and nations. It fosters rapid and accurate information exchange, providing the warfighter with battlefield situational awareness to support decision making against modern and traditional opponents and increasing lethality among joint and coalition operations.
“The safest way to avoid passing information incorrectly is to do it digitally and the best way to enhance interoperability is by using our networks,” says Reitz. “We are a little test-fix-test focused. Bring your stuff that you are fielding, bring your stuff that you are trialing, bring your stuff that is completely experimental and wild and plug it in and let’s see what it does with everyone else’s data. We are a coalition of the willing. People bring their cool stuff and we want to make it work with other nations systems. Nobody walked away empty handed this year, which is the important part,” Reitz said.
Along with improving the capabilities of already existing systems, BQ is also an opportunity for U.S. military branches and partner nations to showcase and refine hardware and software that is in earlier stages of development.
“It has been a great experience looking at the emerging technologies for our career path,” says Tactical Air Control Party Technical Sergeant Jeremy Miter, An Airman assigned to the U.S. Air National Guard 274th Air Support Operations Squadron, based in Syracuse, NY. “It’s great seeing what the future is going to hold and honing our skills on what is already out there.”
For many of the on-site participants of BQ20.2 on Camp Atterbury, the highlight of the event may have been the chance to go out to the installation’s expansive artillery range and witness a live-fire demonstration of a M777 155mm Howitzer by soldiers attached to the 2nd Battalion, 150th Field Artillery of the Indiana National Guard. “The Raiders” were able to put several rounds down range and on target using only digital targeting information.
“The 2nd Battalion 150th Artillery have the distinction of being the first artillery unit to successfully complete a digital call for fire with a French unit participating in a previous Bold Quest,” says Mike Shifflett, the operational manager for the Joint Fire Support, Joint Mission Thread. “That’s what Bold Quest is about. It’s the opportunity to come do some experimentation and concept demonstration of an emerging system or an emerging capability in a program of record without harm or foul.”
Bold Quest has been hosted in the U.K., Norway, and Finland in previous years, and organizers are open to a return to Europe and considering conducting an event in Australia in the future. However, BQ has most frequently been held on Camp Atterbury and that is where the next event is planned to take place.
“We love Camp Atterbury,” says Jenks Reid, the Bold Quest operations manager. “The staff here is very easy to work with. They know bold quest, and we have been here bout 7 or 8 times. It’s like going to your favorite grocery store. That’s camp Atterbury to us. We know the place, it is home.”
Bold Quest was originally conceived in 2001 as an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD), with the first operational demonstration in 2003.The ACTD was extended twice at the request of the participant nations and services to accommodate an expanding scope of work. Bold Quest then transitioned from an ACTD to a recurring cycle of collaborative capability demonstrations and analysis.
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