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U.S. Army Deploys 'Soldier-Friendly' System to Track Thousands of Vehicles in Kuwait

The Logistics Innovation Agency is installing active mesh-networking tags to military vehicles, in order to manage each one's preparation for shipment back to the United States.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 08, 2011The U.S. Army Logistics Innovation Agency (LIA) is installing more than 6,500 active radio frequency identification tags as part of its Next Generation Wireless Communications (NGWC) program for logistics applications, to track military vehicles and other equipment as they are washed at Camp Arifjan's Lot 58, in Kuwait.

The tags, provided by Cubic Global Tracking Solutions, employ the IEEE 802.15.4 protocol to form a wireless mesh network. Camp Arifjan—a new, $200 million state-of-the-art facility funded by the Kuwaiti government—will provide permanent support facilities for tens of thousands of American troops stationed in that country, replacing temporary sites in use since the Gulf War. The camp serves as a forward logistics base for the movement of equipment from the entire Southwest Asian theater, including Iraq, to the United States or other deployment locations.

Camp Arifjan has rows of wash racks to elevate a vehicle so it can be thoroughly cleaned, including its undercarriage.

To comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requirements intended to prevent soil-borne insects or other potentially harmful organisms from entering the United States, U.S. military vehicles and equipment must be thoroughly washed before being shipped home. To accomplish this goal, the military utilizes wash racks on which a vehicle is elevated so that it can be entirely cleaned, including its undercarriage. The number of vehicles undergoing Camp Arifjan's wash-rack process at any given time fluctuates, but averages at approximately 100. As U.S. forces complete their withdrawal from Iraq (slated to take place through the end of this year), the numbers of vehicles—and the speed at which they will need to be processed—is expected to increase significantly. Lot 58's wash-rack area covers approximately 70 acres, but wash racks are also being set up at three additional remote locations.

Prior to implementing the RFID solution, the military needed to employ contractors to manually record which vehicles were completing which processes, such as cleaning, inspection or maintenance, based on their serial numbers. This manual method provided visibility only into the time at which personnel recorded the ID numbers, says Bill Jarrett, the LIA's project lead, and that data was ultimately unreliable, resulting in inefficiencies.

To improve the visibility of each piece of equipment, as well as knowledge of its location—and, thus, whether it was cleaned before exiting the country—LIA sought automatic-identification technology (AIT) that it could deploy enterprise-wide, Jarrett says.

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