DAHLGREN, Va.  –  Approximately 17 Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) personnel, as part of a larger group of approximately 50 personnel supporting the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OUSD), Research and Engineering (R&E), assisted and supported in Valiant Shield 2022 (VS22). Joshua “Cus” Cusworth, the Demonstration Coordinator and the Lead for the OUSD R&E Operational Planning Team, from the Mission Engineering Team in the Warfare Analysis and Digital Modeling Department, along with a team of scientists and engineers, conducted an operational assessment of selected experiments and prototypes significantly increasing the exercise’s capability and outcome.

Valiant Shield is the United States’ only, biennial field training exercise designed to build experience and expertise in joint force operations through finding, fixing, tracking, targeting, engaging, and assessing units across all operational environments. Since 2006, Valiant Shield has continued to assist in the development, training, and testing of capabilities that further the defense of the United States and its allies. This multi-domain training exercise allows for forces in the Indo-Pacific the ability and environment to exercise and test selected experiments and prototypes which provides insightful and valuable data to the Department of Defense, while also assisting in the preparation of the Joint Force for a wide variety of crisis events including disaster and humanitarian relief.

Cusworth and his team conducted operational assessments on prototypes to aid in the decision-making process for leadership. “Our primary focus for this event was to evaluate selected prototypes and provide data-driven feedback on their capabilities”, Cusworth said. In August, a data-generated report will be sent to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Dr. Kathleen Hicks, for evaluation. A major component of this exercise included the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve program established by Hicks. The program facilitates rapid innovation and experimentation through multi-component coordination and cooperation.

During the VS20 exercise, pandemic restrictions played a major role in the operational status and movement allowed during the event. While pandemic restrictions did not pose the largest challenge in VS22, the team split into two groups for operational and strategic reasons. This challenge was not introduced to the team until halfway through the planning process, so the team faced many planning obstacles that were not originally accounted for. “We had to start all over from scratch” recalled Cusworth.

Discussions and preparations began for VS22 in the early summer of 2021. While the exercise did not begin until June of this year, some Dahlgren team members arrived in Guam as early as mid-May to prepare for the event. “The entire team worked tirelessly for a year and then had to restart to prepare for the change that came up, but everybody juggled it very well,” said Cusworth. “While we were there, we were working 12-16 hour days in order to accomplish our goals. It was early mornings, late evenings, and when you got back to your hotel room, you were sending more emails trying to stay above water to accomplish what we came to do.” Cusworth said, “The entire team worked really great together. They were put in very stressful situations when working those long hours, so teamwork was crucial.”

The primary focus of the team was mission engineering, so the team had to cover a wide variety of roles including architecture, kill chain development, data collection, modeling and simulation (M&S), analysis, and much more to ensure the successful outcome of the exercise. “Our team significantly increased the exercise’s capability with our deployable capabilities,” said Cusworth. During the exercise, many flag officers and Senior Executive Service officials visited the deployable site where the Dahlgren team was working. One very notable visit included the Indo-Pacific Commander, Adm. John Aquilino. “That doesn’t ever happen so his visit was a big deal,” said Cusworth.

NSWCDD team members have long supported Valiant Shield. “One of Dahlgren’s primary goals is to support the warfighter where they fight, and that’s exactly what this team does,” said Cusworth. “They go forward and they support the warfighter.” Key members of the NSWCDD team were Ken Mendenhall, Kendra Miller, Philip Costello, and Harold Bannister. “Without these subject matter experts, the team would not have been successful”, said Cusworth. The team is already preparing for their next exercise and making modifications to improve their support.

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