Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor
learning critical tasks and techniques to best accomplish their
mission and do it all safely are learning some of that with the Blue
Force Tracker (BFT) communications system during mobilization training
at Fort McCoy.
Sgt. Jack Tente works on a
Blue Force Tracker communications system at Fort McCoy. Tente is
mobilizing with the 401st Engineer Company of Oklahoma
(Photo by Tom Michele)
a Blue Force Tracker system in their vehicle is important to Soldiers
and their commanders and other members of their unit and adjacent
units because it offers critical communications and critical situation
awareness," Staff Sgt. Mark Komettor said.
is a BFT instructor at the 181st Infantry Brigade who, along with his
fellow teachers, conducts instructional sessions for mobilizing
Soldiers training at McCoy as part of intense training to get vital
information to Soldiers before they head to combat.
is a satellite-based tactical communications system," Komettor
said. "As long as we can see a satellite, we can
Sgt. Richard Hartley, another BFT instructor, said, "The big
thing about BFT is that it isnít impaired by the line-of-sight
restriction that radio has. On the two tours of duty I had in Iraq, my
unit mainly used BFT as a very major navigational tool. It gave us
information as to where we and our friends were, and where the enemy
was, so we would know what was happening on the battlefield."
said BFT also covers longer distances than the main line
Single-Channel Ground-Air Radio System (SINCGARS) radios that are
still the No. 1 form of communication in the Army.
branches of the military use BFT," Komettor said, "and all
branches can communicate together if they are all in the same area of
where you are, and where your friendly forces are, so you donít
shoot at them, is obviously very important," Komettor said.
"BFT is a very good tool to tell the Soldier where their other
unit elements are and to tell other friendly elements where you
also works to let Soldiers know where enemy forces are and other
hazards such as detected and identified improvised explosive devices,
craters, unexploded ordnance, concertina wire,
nuclear-biological-chemical sites, mine-fields and any other obstacles
situational awareness allows the Soldier to avoid hazardous or
contaminated areas, places the Soldier doesnít want to go and
shouldnít go," Komettor said.
BFT system has the distinct advantage that the map view with friendly
and enemy forces also is being viewed in real-time by commanders at
most every level, to and through brigade, so all commanders may
instantly know where all the players are and subsequently make command
decisions to fight the battle.
distinct advantage of BFT is that it works in the middle of a desert
sandstorm, jungle monsoon or mountain blizzard, and, at night. BFT
doesnít have the disadvantage of a paper map, or the need for
several paper maps as the Soldier moves from one map sheet to another.
BFT is not just a navigational or positioning tool. It also allows
text messaging of information to and from all BFT elements, such as
detailed information about threats and obstacles. Soldiers can
communicate via free-text e-mail to their commanders and other
elements, and receive orders from their commanders.
testing at the Armyís National Training Center in California, the
Army learned that use of the BFT changes the equation of Soldiers and
commanders spending 80 percent of their time evaluating their
locations and 20 percent of their time deciding on the course of
battle. Now, with BFT, that is reversed to 20 percent evaluating
locations and 80 percent to better orchestrate an attack.
(Michele is a public
affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for
CONUS Support Base Services.)