'Old Crows' award Stryker unit's lifesaving EW
October 20, 2009
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 19, 2009) -- A 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team battalion accepted the "Association of Old Crows Outstanding U.S. Army Electronic Warfare Unit for 2009" honor Monday.
The award was presented during the opening ceremony of the Old Crows' 46th Annual International EW Symposium and Convention.
The 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment, headquartered in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., earned the Army-wide honor for its extensive use of lifesaving EW capabilities in day-to-day operations in Iraq. As part of the 56th Stryker BCT, the unit is now in the process of redeploying home from a year in Baghdad. Iraq.
"This award demonstrates that the Pennsylvania National Guard is in the forefront of emerging technologies," said Capt. Melvin Benson of Abington, Pa., 56th SBCT electronic warfare officer. "All of our battalions have made good use of electronic warfare. The 1-111th made the greatest use of joint assets."
Benson, a school teacher at Council Rock School District, Newtown, Pa., nominated the battalion in early July.
The AOC, a non-profit association of military and civilian electronic warfare professionals, and the Army Electronic Warfare Division lauded the 1-111th, saying the unit clearly demonstrated ability to master EW and said the units "superlative training and combat record" earned the unit the award.
"This award is appropriate as the 1-111th was founded as the 'Associators' in 1748, by Benjamin Franklin," Benson added. "The 1-111 is the living link from Franklin's kite and lightening rod to our modern airborne EW assets."
The honor stems from the most recent deployment of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Benson said. They served at Camp Taji in Baghdad, Iraq.
Benson explained that Soldiers are protected by their vehicle-borne EW equipment but also have use of man-portable and airborne EW assets. He said an Army-wide focus on EW has cut battlefield losses.
"We know of three incidents where, we believe, EW saved Soldiers' lives or at least saved damage to vehicles," Benson said.
During full-spectrum operations, the 1-111th made extensive use of corps-level airborne EW assets, averaging 15 requests per month. The battalion also incorporated use of vehicle and manpack EW equipment into every mission.
Capt. Dan Gershey of Lake Ariel, Pa., 1-111th assistant operations officer, said during mission planning he looks for ways to integrate electronic warfare into operations. Gershey said EW was "pretty much non-existent" on his previous two tours in Iraq. He said integrating EW into missions on this deployment was not difficult because Soldiers understand the value of the asset.
"They know electronic warfare equals safety, equals them coming home," said Gershey.
Electronic warfare is the management of the electromagnetic spectrum, with electronic warfare specialists serving as force integrators, advising commanders on how to best use EW equipment, and tactics to identify, target and attack the enemy while still protecting the friendly use of the spectrum.
"Soldiers are the Army's number-one asset, and what these guys do is incredibly important," said Col. Laurie Buckhout, chief of the Electronic Warfare Division at Army headquarters. "Our enemy may be living in rough terrain and may not have all the comforts that we do, but they have the same access to technology, and staying one step ahead is our challenge."
"Electronic Warfare capabilities equip units with precisely tailored skills to operate, find, and attack the threat without impacting the surrounding environment, both physical and spectral," she said. "The Army wants to recognize exceptional units who exercise these skills on day-to-day basis to save lives."
"Military units that are involved with electronic attack, electronic protect and electronic support or related disciplines that support electronic warfare are important to our discipline," said the Association of Old Crows president Kermit Quick. "It is important to acknowledge units in the field because they are in many cases in harm's way, taking the fight to our adversaries. Who better exemplifies electronic warfare accomplishments then those at the pointed end of the spear'"
The 56th SBCT mobilized for deployment in September 2008. The brigade is in the process of redeploying to Fort Dix, N.J. Centered around the highly mobile, technologically advanced Stryker vehicle, the 56th SBCT is the only Stryker brigade in the National Guard or Army Reserve and just one of seven such brigades in the Army.