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November 09, 2012


MATES hosts new up-armored forward observer vehicle training

Story & photo by Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

Members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) trained at the Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site (MATES) at Fort McCoy to learn to operate new up-armored forward observer vehicles.

Kevin Langley, a representative from the DRS Sustainment Systems of St. Louis, said the M1200 Armored Knight vehicle is an upgrade from the equipment formerly used both from a tactical and operational standpoint. The vehicle is used to support firing missions, which often are performed by IBCT or BCT units.
PHOTO: Vehicle operators from the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team inspect a new M1200 Armored Knight. Photo by Rob Schuette
Vehicle operators from the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team inspect a new M1200 Armored Knight vehicle under the guidance of Kevin Langley (left), an equipment representative.

The new equipment features specifically designed armor and an improved communications system, Langley said. The communication system is upgraded from a voice network, which can be limited by terrain and other environmental factors, such as noise, to a digital signal, which is more accurate.

“The new system gets them there safer and offers them better communications so they can accomplish their missions without undue risk,” he said. “The new system also has more advanced equipment to help them identify targets and better relay the information to other vehicles and personnel involved in a mission.”

Wheeled vehicle mechanics using the new vehicles received seven days of training, Langley said. Communication and computer specialists received three days, and operators received 10 days of training. Each of the trainees received materials so they will be able to serve as trainers and share the information when they return to their units.

Master Sgt. Patrick Mackie, the 32nd IBCT noncommissioned officer in charge, said the new equipment is a big improvement from the current equipment used by the unit.

In the past, unit fire missions were communicated via voice transmissions, which were subject to many external factors, including enemy actions, that could cause misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

“The communications could take up to 15 minutes, or longer, by voice transmissions,” Mackie said. “The new equipment can do it much quicker and much more accurately.”

The digital transmissions can be sent directly to the fire direction center, and the mission can be calculated and sent to the gun batteries, he said. The written formats used are much easier to interpret than the voice communications.

Pfc. Joshua Saffert, a signal support specialist for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company 32nd IBCT of Camp Douglas, Wis., said the new computer/communications equipment is great.

“We went through the training, and then were able to go through the vehicles to ensure the equipment worked,” Saffert said.
Sgt. Johnathan Feist, an information systems specialist with the 32nd IBCT, said the new equipment is an upgrade in finding and designating target locations.

“We can incorporate everything we do into a digital format,” Feist said. “It will allow us to digitally communicate with personnel and or other equipment/vehicles in the operation. It’s much more efficient than the equipment it’s replacing.”

Capt. Adam Carlson, MATES supervisor, said the new equipment fielding and training also is important to MATES employees.

“Our personnel get to see the new vehicles and go through the training as well,” Carlson said. “This puts us in a better position to support the maintenance needs of this equipment and the Wisconsin National Guard.”

MATES is affiliated with the Wisconsin National Guard. Carlson said some of the new equipment will be stored and maintained at MATES so it will be available for training by the Wisconsin National Guard and any Guard or other units that need to use it.

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