FORT STEWART. Ga. - Communication is key. The ability to communicate a message verbally, physically, or electronically, is vital.
We, as a society and as individuals, communicate every day, and the majority of it is done electronically. We send texts, we speak on the phone, and we send emails that travel globally.
The Army is no different.
Sgt. 1st Class Willie Carter, the 3rd Infantry Division Electronic Warfare Noncommissioned Officer (left), Mr. Phillip Crandell, the 3rd Infantry Division EW Trainer (center), Sgt. Jacob Stauber, the EW NCO of 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID, observe the spectrum of frequencies being used for communications during Marne Focus on June 25, 2015. The group of EW personnel are preparing to test the reaction times of units participating in the exercise by jamming their communications. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Knowles, 3rd ABCT, 3rd ID, PAO)
But what happens when communications are disrupted? How do you get your message across? How does a commander relay orders? How does a Soldier call for a medical evacuation? How do we report enemy activity?
The Electronic Warfare Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division asked those questions during a Division-wide training exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia, from June 24 to July 2, 2015.
For more than a week, the 3rd ID was engaged in a large-scale exercise called Marne Focus.
The exercise, carried out over a majority of Fort Stewart training area is an event conducted to prepare units for possible deployments in the future and to train in simulated combat scenarios.
“Units are comfortable having superiority of the electro-magnetic spectrum, of being able to talk when they want to talk, being able to operate radars when they want to operate radars, and putting rounds on target without being contested,” said Phillip Crandell, the 3rd Infantry Division Electronic Warfare Trainer.
According to Crandell, the end result is to help units prepare for the contest for the electronic spectrum.
“We made it simple because we want this to be a training exercise and not to become the focus of the exercise,” said Maj. Heriberto Marrero, the 3rd ID EW Officer. “We are using this to make it a little stressful to see how they react and see if they actually carry out the battle drills that they are trained to use in order to counter-attack.”
According to Marrero, it is possible that some adversaries' with EW capabilities, now rival the United States. This makes it even more imperative that the Soldiers continue to train on their EW battle-drills in order to be prepared for any threats.
In a small tent located on Camp Oliver, a training facility located deep in Fort Stewart's training area, Sgt. 1st Class Willie Carter, the 3rd ID EW noncommissioned officer and other EW personnel, monitored their equipment closely.
“We are out here replicating communication electronic attacks and information operations broadcasting,” Carter said.
Using standard-issued radio equipment, the members of the EW team are simulating electronic attacks by hot-mic'ing on different frequencies, Carter said.
Hot-mic'ing usually happens when someone is leaning on a radio, or there is a malfunction, but they generally only last a few minutes, said Carter. The EW team is using this to their advantage and using it as a form of disruption.
According to Sgt. Jacob Stauber, the EW NCO of 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID, the PACE plan is the units Primary means of communication and then when that is interrupted, the unit will then enact their Alternative, Contingency, or their Emergency communication plans.
“We have a whole playlist of different messages and music,” said Carter. “We wrap up the microphones to put pressure on the switches and then we just broadcast, and when they encounter it in this environment, they are supposed to enact their PACE plan.”
“It is important to be able to challenge them, so that our forces are able to shoot, move, and communicate, and the most important of those is communicating effectively,” Stauber said. “As we roll further into the 21st century, the electro-magnetic spectrum is going to be highly contested on any future battlefield; whether it is going to be in a hybrid-threat environment or a conventional environment.”
“This is the first of its type to our knowledge, at least within the 3rd ID, that we are actually testing this in a home station environment to effectively train the force,” Stauber continued. “As electronic warfare makes the transition towards cyber warfare, and with future material being issued and being pushed out to electronic warfare and cyber electro-magnetic activities NCO's out in the actual force in the coming years, we need to be able to effectively train that force and to have a test; a proof of concept.”
“It takes the Army back to its basics because it goes back to comfort; we've always had the comfort of being able to communicate when we want to,” Crandell said. “But now, how does the ground commander in a truck communicate with his dismounted Soldiers when they don't have radio communications. It takes them back to the basics.”
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Knowles
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