Here's a great first-person account of netcentric operations in action.

I joined the Marine Corps when I was eighteen. That was in 1989, when the great Soviet armored divisions were still considered our primary threat, Communism was still the prevailing ideology to fear, and infantrymen ("grunts" or "ground-pounders" as we're often called) never ever touched computers.

How times have changed. Modern warfare is predominantly made up of decentralized small-unit actions and low-intensity skirmishes in complex "semi-permissive" settings. Today's adversaries are not assembled into the ponderous formations of yesteryear with static defenses and unwieldy supply lines. The prototypical "enemy" of the twenty-first century is an urban guerilla who is mobile, adaptive, and draws his strength and resources primarily from the indigenous population. The prototypical soldier needs more than a rifle to deal with him. He requires a different skill set, and needs speedy communications.

Coming from an older generation of infantrymen, I was astonished to see my unit suddenly being outfitted with every variety of electronic equipment, from "ruggedized" laptop computers with Internet access and instant messaging, to man-packed tracking systems, to a plethora of cameras, videos, and other imagery devices. These innovations were introduced to the battlefield in hopes of increasing situational awareness, rapidly gathering data, analyzing it, organizing it, then pushing it back out to operators as actionable intelligence. They also provide commanders with the freshest possible information and aid them in their moment-to-moment decision-making.

But with the diffuse and often dynamic nature of today's battlefield, the military discovered it needed not only a new line of electronic gadgets, but a new breed of soldier as well -- a thinking soldier.

Wars have always been about networks -- even when the "networks" were carrier pigeons and couriers -- but now every battle and every engagement is "netcentric", and the side with the better network wins.

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