[ Triad Online Home ]                                                                                               June 8, 2007
Mobilization

New Blue Force Tracker training preparing troops for deployment

By Lacey Justinger, Triad Contributor

      New binding satellites allow Soldiers to get realistic hands-on training at Fort McCoy with the Blue Force tracking systems they will see while deployed in-theater.

Photo: Operation Warrior Trainer Sgt. Michael Hatchett shows an Airman how to relay convoy positions and information using the Blue Force Tracker system. (Photo by Lacey Justinger)
Operation Warrior Trainer Sgt. Michael Hatchett shows an Airman how to relay convoy positions and information using the Blue Force Tracker system. (Photo by Lacey Justinger)

      Blue Force Tracker provides units with satellite situational awareness that increases the flow of battlefield and tactical information.

      Soldiers report enemy and combat area hazard information to their commanders as well as to other units, vehicles and Soldiers in the area. 

      The satellites are bound to a hard drive so if either the system or the satellite is compromised the remaining part will not work when connected with an alien counterpart.  

      "The enemy wants to know what's going on," said Sgt. 1st Class Alvin L. Smiley, an Operation Warrior Trainer, Blue Force Tracker instructor at Fort McCoy. "If they overrun a vehicle that has Blue Force Tracker and take it before it is destroyed, they could never find anything out because nothing's going to show."

      Soldiers can destroy Blue Force Tracker system hard drives in less than 15 seconds as well as send 911 messages that kick other users out of the system that is in jeopardy.

      As Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force (Prime BEEF) Airman Tech. Sgt. Joseph Ritter said, "It improves our technological superiority over the enemy as commanders use it as a tool to track personnel and vehicles."

      Blue Force Tracker transmits, receives and displays situational awareness messages and the location of friendly forces, enemy forces and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in relation to the convoy.

      Satellite communications report suspicious items like abandoned cars, tires, tank charges and claymore mines beyond the Soldier's line-of-sight. Logistical information about the enemy is reported and convoys will receive audible and screen banner warnings when they are in close proximity to the threat.

Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Alvin Smiley, an Operation Warrior Trainer master trainer, instructs an Airman on using Blue Force Tracker as a global positioning system to track live tactical situations and report relevant combat information. (Photo by Lacey Justinger)
Sgt. 1st Class Alvin Smiley, an Operation Warrior Trainer master trainer, instructs an Airman on using Blue Force Tracker as a global positioning system to track live tactical situations and report relevant combat information. 
(Photo by Lacey Justinger)

      Tools are available to measure the distance and direction to a destination with a visual view of the terrain between the points.

      This allows Soldiers to determine dead space and plan for direct or indirect fire from battle positions or discover concealed routes in the terrain.

      "Blue Force Tracker is about color codes; I see something red coming up and that's bad," said Smiley. "I can take preventative measures against the hostile enemy as I'm riding along and I know where he's at; otherwise I'll never know."

      Messaging allows Soldiers to exchange critical combat information between tracker systems to enhance situational awareness between convoys.  The system allows Soldiers to keep a running history of enemy activities and attacks, track the location of friendly units, battlefield hazards like nuclear, biological or chemical contaminated areas, minefields and obstacles.

      Commanders track the status of their unit in relation to friendly and enemy forces in order to be responsive to the tactical situations.

      "In the beginning there was no way to track convoys that turned off the road," said Smiley. "No one knew where they were. Now we can send information ahead to base command if the convoy encountered IEDs, live fire or if the mission is complete and we made it safely."  

      There are fewer than 60 digital master trainers for Blue Force Tracker in the Army and seven of them work at Fort McCoy. With the three Blue Force tracker satellite systems on Fort McCoy; approximately five percent of a unit's population will attend classes in groups of 24 Soldiers in either two-day classes or a five-day course.

(Justinger is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)

 

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