|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.
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
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.