The Red Devils: Connecting on the Field of Battle


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Paratroopers from the Army’s 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the Red Devils, are on the front lines of military technology, testing phone connectivity under battle conditions at Fort Bliss in Texas.  The Fort Bliss Bugle explains the unique field concerns that soldiers face.  While civilians rely on a network of cell towers to connect their calls, the Army has to carry its own network with it.  The digital network that was in force, Nett Warrior, had too many limitations and was unwieldy to use. “Nobody was using the Nett Warrior devices,” said Maj. Andrew Miller.

Armed with commercial available smartphones and tablets, the soldiers began their assault on the new Integrated Tactical Network (ITN).  The ITN seeks to extend the range and flexibility of communications on the field. Following the lead of the Special Operation Forces team, the Army set out to create a decentralized system that would allow soldiers to talk within their units without needing to link back through a command center first.  The signal would also need to circumvent attempts to jam a signal or disrupt satellite communications. The Red Devils have continued to test the ITM during each continued phase of its development. 

“We are developing a framework where ITN is constantly iterating or evolving; we are looking for ways to go faster and inject capabilities as they prove themselves,” Miller said.  Current tests are pitting the Red Devils against electronic and cyber warfare. In an earlier test, the team was able to incorporate data from three different sources and merge it on to one digital map.  Relaying back information to the developers then allowed them to expand operations from a company size to a battalion size operation. With each test, feedback continues to improve cell service for those whose lives depend on the ability to coordinate with each other under difficult conditions. Comments? Email us.

November 12, 2018