Retired U.S. Army Colonel, Michael Coss, is at the forefront of the U.S. Army’s commitment to next generation training solutions as seen through his work with 4C Strategies’ Exonaut military training software. We meet with him to find out more.
4C Strategies U.S. President, Michael Coss, or Chief as he has been known as for many years, has a long and distinguished military career behind him. From joining the U.S. Army as a Private First Class he rose through the ranks to become a Colonel. On the way, he completed operational missions in Central America – when the cold war was at its height – and led troops in the Balkans, Middle East and Korea. Following that he became Chief of the Joint Operations Division for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before forming the Soldier for Life Program for the U.S. Army. But it could have been so different. After graduating from college, Chief was a successful insurance salesman, but he felt unfilled, which led him to join the Army.
After 32 years of service, Chief made the difficult decision to retire from the military and do what he’d helped so many veterans do before him – through the Soldier for Life Program – return to civilian life and carve out a new career. Like so many other ex-military personnel, his ties with the Army remain strong.
What have you done since leaving the U.S. Army?
In 2014, I joined General Dynamics Information Technology as a Capture Manager. Two years at a large defense contractor proved to be the perfect steppingstone for my move to 4C Strategies, where I’ve been since 2016. As U.S. President, I get to combine my management, leadership, budgetary and finance skills, with my knowledge and experience of training Soldiers for combat.
“When you leave the Army, you don’t suddenly want to stop serving your country, you still want to make a difference, where possible.”
What makes 4C Strategies the right company for you?
When you leave the Army, you don’t suddenly want to stop serving your country, you still want to make a difference, where possible. So, it’s no surprise I’m working with a company like 4C Strategies, which has a hugely impressive military pedigree. Our NATO accredited Exonaut® Training & Readiness Management Platform is used by armed forces around the world and we have a lot of experienced staff throughout Europe and North America, who have served in the armed forces.
Even though I’m no longer in the U.S. Army, I’m still at the forefront of their commitment to developing the next generation Synthetic Training Environment (STE). Ultimately, I believe the work we are doing here at 4C will lead to better trained Divisions, Units and Soldiers who are more prepared to succeed in combat operations around the world.
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“Even though I’m no longer in the U.S Army, I’m still at the forefront of their commitment to developing the next generation Synthetic Training Environment”
Tell us a bit more about 4C Strategies’ involvement in the U.S Army Synthetic Training Environment
Currently, 4C Strategies is a subcontractor to MAK Technologies, a global leader in modeling and simulation software. We are responsible for providing the core of the Training Management Tool (TMT), which we are doing through a tailored and scalable version of the Exonaut platform that accords with U.S. Army doctrine. For instance, we’re designing a completely new User Interface (UI) to match doctrinal workflows, even though many of the capabilities required by the U.S. Army already exist in Exonaut. We have a U.S. based Development team working on this together with our Colleagues in Europe. Furthermore, we are in the process of significantly expanding this team to support this and other programs in the US and abroad.
How helpful is your previous experience when it comes to developing and delivering the Training Management Tool?
I lived and breathed U.S. Army doctrine for many years, which has been extremely helpful during the assignment. We have interpreted thousands of pages of doctrine into a user-friendly Training Management Tool that is recognizable and beneficial to Soldiers. My military experience helps make this possible. I communicate with MAK Technologies and the Army and lead and guide our development team to ensure we produce the best training management solution possible for the U.S. Army.
“We have interpreted thousands of pages of doctrine into a user-friendly Training Management Tool that is recognizable and beneficial to Soldiers.”
Why is Exonaut the best military training management tool for the U.S. Army?
I would say it’s the best management tool for military training, exercises and experiments, full stop. By that I mean every Branch in the Armed Forces would benefit from using it. For a start, Exonaut has been proven beyond all doubt, as military forces around the world have used it for the past 20 years across the live, virtual and constructive spectrum, where it has been exposed to some extremely tough environments. Two decades of user feedback and innovation have gone into making it the state-of-the-art system it is today, and every customer gets the benefit of that.
As a result, Exonaut is very user-friendly, with broad capabilities and a large feature set for effective training. When using the Training Management Tool, Commanders at all echelon levels can follow live, virtual and constructive spectrum training of their units in real-time to identify proficiency levels. Observations can be noted and stored to support effective training feedback and training assessments, and missions can be reset, repeated, adjusted, and/or completed in real-time. You can even introduce an enemy into an exercise at any time. Another great feature is that recommended missions, analyses, and best practices can be shared with other units.
Basically, Exonaut is the only military Training Management Tool that can support the U.S. Army in their goal of providing more repetitions and more effective training at a much lower cost.
“Basically, Exonaut is the only military Training Management Tool that can support the U.S. Army in their goal of providing more repetitions and more effective training at a much lower cost.”
What other use cases do you envisage for Exonaut moving forward?
The great thing with the Exonaut platform is that it is flexible and scalable, so it would make complete sense for the Marines, the Navy, and the Air Force to use it. The National Guard and Army Reserve would also greatly benefit from using Exonaut for training, as would emergency services, such as the police and the fire department. Our job would be to tailor Exonaut to the Authoritative doctrine of these institutions and train users to get the most out of the system. Furthermore, based on our development plan for the coming years, there is a lot more in the pipeline for all current and new users, including a serious push to include Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
Finally, what does the future look like for the 4C Strategies in the U.S.?
We opened the first U.S. office in 2016. Since then we have been awarded three major contracts from the U.S. Army: Other Transaction Authority (OTA) 1.1, under Bohemia Interactive Simulation and Cole Engineering Services Inc.; Exercise Planning and Assessment Capability (EPAC), where 4C was the prime contractor; and the current Common Synthetic Environment (CSE) contract under MAK Technologies. We also won a major contract with the U.S. State Marine Corps at their Wargaming Center under Cole Engineering Services, Inc. We expect business the business to grow as we are awarded more contracts.
We are also expanding our presence. Along with our Corporate office in Washington D.C., we have a major development hub in Orlando, which is currently in a growth phase with additional staff and capabilities that we need to meet our customers’ expectations. Having said that, we set a high bar when it comes to hiring staff and we take our time to find the right individuals. That’s one of the great things about 4C – every colleague is very competent, extremely motivated to get the job done right, and has fun doing it every single day.
It’s exciting times at 4C Strategies, and I couldn’t have wished for a better place to be, following my retirement from the U.S. Army. It’s challenging, I get to use many of my skills and much of my experience, and we have a great product that’s making a big difference for our Soldiers and society as a whole.