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U.S. Army Reserve













NEWS | May 24, 2022

Rise of the Digital Soldier: USAR hosts its 1st robotics competition

By Sgt. 1st Class Javier Orona U.S. Army Reserve Command

The Rise of the Digital Soldier Challenge brought together 36 competitors from the Air Force, National Guard, Army Reserve, U.S. Army and military technicians. The Army Reserve's inaugural competition was organized and administered by the Continuous Process Improvement Office (CPIO).

The challenge, which took place from 24 Jan.- 15 Apr. 2022, at Fort Bragg, N.C., consisted of a 40-hour course and took 10 weeks to complete.

The 40-hour course focused mostly on UiPath robotic process automation, basic user training, and obtaining the citizen developer foundation certification. UiPath lead developers were given by the Air Force Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Center of Excellence (COE) to conduct the challenge and certification training.

The competition, which is the first one conducted by the Army Reserve, was coordinated by the Continuous Process Improvement Office (CPIO).

CPIO provides Army Reserve commanders, directors and staffs with resources such as Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) architecture and data-driven Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodology and tools for removing waste (activities/functions) and enhancing the quality, cost and efficiency in any process.

Participants will get an UiPath industry Citizen Developer Certification as well as access to the UiPath developer online academy, which will provide advanced RPA workshops and training modules.

The winners of the Rise of the Digital Soldier Challenge:

Best Overall Concept Bot Award
• 75th Innovation Command, CPT Matthew Letarte and 1LT Sarah Starr, SGT Jonathan Fisher-Espinoza, and SGT Paige Alexandre

Best Business Impact Bot Award
• 75th Innovation Command, CPT Matthew Letarte and 1LT Sarah Starr, SGT Jonathan Fisher-Espinoza, and SGT Paige Alexandre

Best Impact to Morale Bot Award
• 75th Innovation Command, CPT Matthew Letarte, 1LT Sarah Starr, SGT Jonathan Fisher-Espinoza, and SGT Paige Alexandre

Best Team Collaboration Bot Award
• 126th Cyber BN, Massachusetts National Guard, CW4 James Slattery, CW2 Andrew Warby – SSG Colton Williams – SPC Matthew Brittan

Dr. Madeline Bodoh, CPIO director, asked the Air Force RPA COE program manager about the digital wingman’s exercise that had taken place over the previous two years.

"Through collaboration, the idea to host a competition for the Army Reserve was driven by the desire to educate the Army Reserve on the limitless possibilities of RPA in performing routine tasks, increase productive, and accuracy. Air Force RPA COE agreed to host the challenge for the Army Reserve and Army National Guard. " said Bodoh.

The competition and certification enabled competitors to learn how to create software robots to assist with day-to-day competitive tasks and processes.

“I attended a four-day class, which introduced us to the basic system,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Terwort, a competitor from the 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC). “It was nice; it’s something like power automate, Microsoft software. It’s user friendly. Not so much programming but accepts lots of programming language if needed.”

RPA is a type of automation software that replicates a human's activity in carrying out a task inside a process. It can perform repetitive activities more quickly and effectively, letting our human workforce to focus on nonrepetitive, high-value tasks or other functions requiring human strengths such as emotional intelligence, reasoning, judgment and customer interaction.

“Through this competition, we are reducing the burden of low-value work,” said Maj. Benji B. Brown, CPIO deputy director. “We are improving standardization while increasing productivity and employee morale at all levels of the organization.”

Brown said one of many goals is to increase the frequency of the challenge from annual to semi-annually. Through this approach, the program would raise awareness of skillsets, investing in junior Soldiers, creating a culture for the Army of 2035, and supporting the Army Resilient Energy Funding for Readiness and Modernization (REFoRM) initiative.

RPA solutions can make decisions based on predefined rules, seamlessly integrate with existing applications, execute manual repetitive tasks, reduce compliance cost and risk, improve customer experiences, improve outcomes from digital transformation, and result in significant savings and time, which translates into cost savings.

“Unfortunately, during battle assembly weekend, a lot of our time is used for mundane tasks that could benefit from automation,” said 1st Lt. Sarah Starr, intelligence officer, 75th Innovation Command. “RPA technology does potentially pose a great solution for some of those tasks that are cumbersome.”

According to Starr, this competition does not only ask entrants to consider use cases from a theoretical or conceptual approach. Competitors are given the tools they need to solve the difficulties they face and are driven to work around any impediments they meet.

Brown says the RPA can help achieve goals and has the ability to revolutionize the way the USAR does business . He also says the CPIO process mapping function is a good place to start using RPA.

Process mapping helps identify the top RPA candidates and allows them to use the results to determine which processes are ready for RPA solutions.

“This is only the beginning for the Army Reserve’s digital transformation efforts employing RPA,” said Bodah. “We encourage those with an interest in learning more about RPA to join our next challenge or nominate a prospective process for RPA.”