[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                     January 28, 2011
News

MATES hosts fielding of BFT equipment to Wisconsin Guard units

Story & photo by Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

Several hundred Soldiers from Wisconsin Army National Guard units will receive the latest Blue Force Tracker (BFT) equipment, which will update their communications capability for future missions. The equipment is being installed in their vehicles at the Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site (MATES) at Fort McCoy.

PHOTO: Brian Payne (left) and Robert Perry of Engineer Solutions and Products of Fort Hood, Texas, build Blue Force Tracker racks to install the equipment into vehicles of the 121st Field Artillery Battalion of the 157th Brigade. Photo by Rob Schuette
Brian Payne (left) and Robert Perry of Engineer Solutions and Products of Fort Hood, Texas, build Blue Force Tracker racks to install the equipment into vehicles of the 121st Field Artillery Battalion of the 157th Brigade.

Ken Traynham of Engineer Solutions and Products (ESP) of Fort Hood, Texas, said the organization received the request to install the BFT equipment for the Wisconsin Army National Guard. The first unit to receive it is the 121st Field Artillery of the 157th Brigade. ESP trainers can go to units all over the world to give the training needed to help the operator cut through the fog of war.

BFT is a technology that has a satellite navigation system and allows units to track locations and movements of troops and equipment, and to formulate battle plans, Traynham said.

“Blue Force Tracker is a combat multiplier,” he said. “The days of not knowing exactly where your team is are gone. The system replaces what privates did to determine and provide this information.”

Traynham said the BFT system uses satellite technology and e-mail to relay this information. The BFT system is much better than the old method of using voice contact on the battlefield.

Operation orders can be prepared on computers and sent out via text. This helps ensure everyone gets the same information and interprets it the same way, he said.

“Nothing gets lost in translation,” he said. “The system is very user friendly and does all the tasks that were so painstaking. If the main-system operator is lost, a private can take over and ensure the mission is successful.”

During the installation period, Soldiers from the 121st also received training at the Fort McCoy Wisconsin Military Academy about how to operate and maintain the equipment.

“This equipment is absolutely essential,” Traynham said. “This is the first thing they turn on in-theater after they ensure their weapons work. The equipment always is being updated so the system keeps getting better and better.”

ESP instructors at Fort McCoy were Darrel Vines, Damen Berry, Mel Chavez and Ray Herrell.

Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Olson of MATES said the organization served as the hosting organization for the installation of the BFT equipment.

In addition to providing support to the contractors to install the equipment, the MATES staff coordinated with the WMA at Fort McCoy to provide classrooms to support training on the equipment, which was conducted by ESP staff.

“We will store some of the Blue Force Tracker equipment at Fort McCoy as well,” Olson said. “That way, other units that come to Fort McCoy and need basic training or to train with the equipment during an exercise don’t have to bring the equipment from their home stations.”

That can be a good selling point if a unit from a distant location is considering coming to Fort McCoy to participate in an exercise, he said.

If the equipment is here, it may increase the possibility a unit, such as from Texas or Oklahoma, comes here to train.

“MATES personnel also will learn to operate the equipment and to repair and maintain it on site,” he said.

The 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team is scheduled to get the equipment in June, Olson said.

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