May 29, 2006:
After only four years, the U.S. Marine Corps designed, built, tested and rolled out a new battalion headquarters system. It was only a generation ago that a battalion headquarters was a bunch of radios, typewriters, maps and troops, hauled around in a truck and set up in tents. That's all changed. There are still radios, but now the tent is full of laptop computers, a local area network, large flat screen displays, a satellite link, and much else that is new. The tent is also air conditioned. To keep the equipment from overheating, but it does make life easier for the troops. The battalion headquarters is now standardized, to make managing and quickly setting up all this new equipment possible. The Combat Operations Center (COC) CapSet (Capability Set) is a carefully thought out, and packaged, array of equipment that is packed into three hummers, and their trailers. It takes less than an hour to get a headquarters up and running. The CapSet can also be flown in, as all the gear comes with carrying cases. There are also CapSets, based on the same gear and principles, for regimental and divisional headquarters. The standardization makes it easy for new marines assigned to headquarters to get right to work, without having to learn that his new battalions particular "system" works. It's all the same, no matter where the COC is.
The marines began developing COC in 2002, and in 2004 were shipped to marine aviation units in Iraq for testing. The results were excellent, and word got around. Every unit wanted a COC. There are now 16 COCs being used in Iraq, with another 60 being delivered before the end of the year.
The COC takes advantage of the fact that combat commanders use their laptops are their principle administrative tool. While on the move, the laptop provides maps, data and a growing array of software tools for commanders. Once the COC is set up, the commander has a network of laptops, and satellite access to additional resources world wide. Since the COC takes a little over an hour to pack up, and less than an hour to set up, a battalion headquarters can be moved frequently, and a lot more easily than in the past. For a battalion moving and attacking, like marine battalions did in 2003 as they advanced towards Baghdad, this kind of flexibility makes they unit more effective. It saves lives.