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Maj. Will Oblak, USMC

Student, Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation (MOVES)

Maj. William Oblak graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Earth Science and a minor in Watershed Management. He commissioned in May 2011 as a Second Lieutenant through the NROTC program. He then reported to The Basic School followed by the Infantry Officer's Course in Jan. 2012.

After completing MOS school, Oblak was assigned to 2d Battalion, 2d Marines in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He served as a Platoon Commander with Company E during the Battalion's deployment as Black Sea Rotational Force (BSRF)-13 to Permanent Forward Operating Station (PFOS), Mihail Kogaliceanu (MK), Romania. During the deployment, he participated in multiple bilateral exercises focused on building partner nation relations in the Republic of Georgia and Romania. He also partnered with counter-terrorism instructors in the Levant region and was prepared for embassy reinforcement within the European Command area of responsibility. He was promoted to First Lieutenant in May 2013. Upon returning from the deployment in Oct. 2013, Oblak assumed the role of Company Executive Officer. In Jan. 2014, he attended the Winter Mountain Leader's Course. In July 2014, he was assigned as a Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) Team Leader and GCE liaison to the LCE as part of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF)-Crisis Response Africa 14.2. He completed two separate missions to Burkina Faso and Cameroon focused on Non-Lethal Weapons Systems and Basic Infantry Skills. After both TSC missions, Oblak served as Headquarters and Service Company Commander Forward for five months, as part of SPMAGTF-Crisis Response/BSRF 14.2A, at PFOS MK, Romania. Oblak reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC, in May 2015. After arriving, he attended the Series Commander Course 6-16. He served as a Series Commander and later as a Company Commander during his first two years. He was promoted to Captain in Oct. 2015. He then reported to Drill Instructor School as the Assistant Director. Oblak attended the Train the Trainer School in Camp Johnson, North Carolina, for the Curriculum Developer Course and Instructor Development Course.

Oblak was selected to attend the resident Expeditionary Warfare School. After graduating, he reported to the Basic Communication Officers Course after being accepted for a lateral transfer to the field of communication. Oblak then joined 8th Communication Battalion, Camp Lejeune, NC, where he assumed the role of Assistant Operations Officer for the Battalion until he took command of General Support in April 2020. In Oct. 2020, he took over as the Battalion Operations Officer during MEF EX 21.1. In Jan. 2021, Oblak relinquished command of the General Support Company and continued his duties as the Battalion Operations Officer. He was frocked to Major in April 2021. As the operations officer, Oblak oversaw the planning and execution of support during three MEF Level Exercises over the next year. Oblak was selected to attend the Naval Postgraduate School Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation (MOVES) Program in 2022 and is projected to graduate in summer 2024.

His decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with one bronze star, Drill Instructor Ribbon, and the Arctic Service Ribbon.

"The cross-department working relationships and the collaboration of various organizations, all coming together to advance our military capabilities and tackle tomorrow's challenges, give me a sense of pride and reassurance that we will not only meet but overcome them."

What has been most impactful about your time at NPS so far? What will you bring with you as you move on to your follow on position at EWTGLANT?

The connections and relationships I have made here, across the DOD and sister services, stand out to me as the most impactful. While it is true that we gain a significant amount of knowledge through our time at NPS and the rigorous academics, it is truly the people who make NPS great. The cross-department working relationships and the collaboration of various organizations, all coming together to advance our military capabilities and tackle tomorrow's challenges, give me a sense of pride and reassurance that we will not only meet but overcome them. I know that if I encounter a problem in my next billet as the modeling and simulation officer, I only need to reach for the phone. Someone at NPS will be ready to help.

In today’s rapidly evolving global landscape, why is it important for Marines of every rank to have a foundational understanding of modeling and simulation and other emerging technologies?

The world is becoming more complicated by the day, and modeling and simulation can help make sense of it in almost any realm or area of study. Modeling and simulation can help us think faster and understand more of what is happening around us. All that is needed is a simple understanding of leveraging these tools within their field. From training range to future conflict zones, modeling and simulation has a place at every echelon, and within each warfighting function, one only has to ask the right questions. A foundational understanding of modeling and simulation and other emerging technologies will only speed up our ability to answer the complicated questions arising every day.

What are some of the specific challenges faced by Marines in contested environments, especially as related to communications and real-time data, and how does your research address those challenges in a training environment?

The biggest challenge within contested environments is just how fast they change. Tactics and operating procedures can change overnight. If we are not able to adapt faster and find ways to place our adversaries in complex dilemmas first, we might never get the chance to catch up. This is being felt within the field of electronic warfare in front of the world stage in places like Ukraine. We, as a nation, must both learn these lessons and heed the warning that the electromagnetic spectrum will be, if not already, the linchpin for success. My research addresses only a microcosm of this issue by addressing small unit training within the contested electromagnetic spectrum. By leveraging EW simulation, cheap hardware, and software-defined radios, we can replicate adversaries’ capabilities in a constructive simulation to provide realistic scenarios of what small units conducting live training are expected to face.

Can you tell us about your current research focus in the Modeling, Virtual Environments, and Simulation program at NPS, particularly regarding electronic warfare training and education for the Marine Corps?

Within the Marine Corps, there is currently no way to effectively train our units in an environment that accurately simulates the contested Electromagnetic Spectrum. My thesis aims to address this issue by utilizing the concepts of Live, Virtual, and Constructive environments to bridge the gap between the Live and Constructive domains. This can be achieved by using software-defined radios to capture the live spectrum associated with a unit during live training and then integrating this information into a physics-based EW simulation. By using simulation to compare the live friendly unit with a simulated enemy EW unit, we can provide the training audience with more accurate feedback on the effectiveness of their maneuvers and communication plans against current enemy EW tactics, techniques, and procedures. Through the use of simulation, we can also modify the scenarios presented to the training audience, and because the simulation is based on physics propagation principles, we can confidently assess whether our units could be exploited. By adopting approaches like this, we can leverage both new and existing technologies to revolutionize our training methods and enhance our current training programs, effectively preparing us for future challenges.

How can partnerships with industry help accelerate the adoption of existing technologies and drive innovation in military training and simulation programs?

I have collaborated closely with Battlespace Simulation Inc. (BSI) for my thesis work, where I incorporated and utilized their Modern Air Combat Environment (MACE) Simulation. BSI's software engineers possess extensive knowledge and an inherent understanding of our overall mission to prepare forces for future conflicts. Their years of experience and extensive network within the DOD offer invaluable support. Through my work with BSI, alongside other companies such as Qualcomm, I have not only gained access to tools and knowledge but also potential connections with other organizations committed to enhancing our military capabilities.

The other type of connections and partnership that have been invaluable are the relationships with organizations within the DOD. More specifically, the Marine Corps Spectrum Integration Laboratory at the NAWC Weapons Division in Point Mugu, California, or Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane in Crane, Indiana. These organizations and their personnel tirelessly work behind the scenes to truly prepare us for the future of conflict and were invaluable in my education and helped tremendously with my thesis. By opening the doors for students to reach out and connect with industry and other DOD organizations, the sky is truly the limit.

In what ways do partnerships with industry leaders like Qualcomm contribute to the development and implementation of advanced wireless communication technologies within electronic warfare training systems, and how does this collaboration ensure that Marines are equipped with the most cutting-edge tools for their training needs?

Industry leaders like Qualcomm offer NPS a wealth of knowledge and access to cutting-edge technology. However, it is the people from these organizations who truly enhance the education at NPS. Sitting in meetings or visiting these industry partners has been a highlight of my time here. Many of the ideas I have adopted for my research area have come from interacting with these partnerships. I have no doubt that as these partnerships continue to grow and mature, the aid and education my fellow NPS students receive from them will directly impact our ability to fight and win future wars.

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