FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Jan. 26, 2018) -- Advances in technology have cut through the "fog of war" to improve situational awareness on the battlefield like never before. Systems such as the Joint Battle Command Platform (JBC-P) makes it easier to create and share an accurate mission command picture in any operational environment.

The instructors at the Lt. Col. Dured E. Townsend Mission Training Complex at Fort Drum are putting this latest technology in the hands of 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers and training them in a classroom setting so they are prepared to employ it during field training exercises and deployments.

Twenty Soldiers from 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, recently completed the 32-hour course on the JBC-P Operator Course at the MTC. The JBC-P is an update of the Joint Capabilities Release (JCR) system, also referred to as Blue Force Tracker or Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below.

Soldiers learned how the system is integrated with the Tactical Ground Reporting System (TIGR) to populate a map with friendly units (indicated by blue icons), hostiles (red icons) or suspicious activity (yellow icons). Secure data encryption and a faster satellite network enables Soldiers to send messages and electronic casualty reports, as well as communicate on a universal chat bridge.

The friendly-force tracking system also has an improved user interface with drag-and-drop icons and touch-to-zoom maps, and features improved route planning and terrain analysis. Soldiers can use the software on tactical computers that can be mounted in their vehicles, but it is also operable for dismounted Soldiers using a handheld device.

Beate Kinzel is the lead instructor for the Joint Battle Command Platform (JBC-P) and has taught every version of the software here since 2011.

"What it does, essentially, is provide the commander a quick and immediate picture of the battle space," Kinzel said. "What the Soldiers are learning in the classroom is how to make that battle space come to life by operating it, so they are the support to the leadership who needs that information."

She said that, ultimately, the system is about survivability on the battlefield.

"The blue-force tracker system, in itself, came out of the Gulf War because it is designed to help Soldiers in the battlefield to identify friendly vehicles off in a distance by the blue icons on the screen," Kinzel said. "This didn't exist in the Gulf War and there were a lot of blue-on-blue accidents. So they designed the system to eliminate that, and it has been upgraded several times since then."

Pfc. Nathan Smith said that taking the course was pertinent to his job as a signals support systems specialist.

"We learned all the basic upgrades of this system like how to send secure messages, plot points on the map and how to plan routes," he said. "This was a good way to familiarize ourselves with it, so when we get this system at our unit we will be able to train up others on it."

The JBC-P is one of several systems courses offered at the MTC. Kinzel also teaches the Joint Capabilities Release (JCR) course, which was introduced 5 years ago and is the predecessor of the JBC-P.

"I think blue-force trackers are being used much more now, and I think it's the best tactical communications equipment ever," she said. "It's simple and it doesn't require the internet. When you're out in the middle of nowhere, you're not always going to pick up internet service."

Tonya Kubis, Individual Training Branch chief, said that the 4-31st Soldiers are the second unit to receive this training since it was first offered last year. She said that Soldiers can begin training on it even if their units haven't been issued the JBC-P system yet.

The MTC also provides a JBC-P refresher training and a JBC-P Log Operator course.

"That class is designed more for personnel who maintain the system, install it in vehicles and load the COMSEC, which allows the encryption of communications," Kubis said.

Other courses offered at the MTC include Tactical Ground Reporting System (TiGR), Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS), Command Post of the Future (CPOF), Combined Information Data Network Exchange (CIDNE) and the Defense Advanced GPS Receiver (DAGR).

"They all have a certain level of interoperability that they have to work together, by contract, otherwise it's like working in a vacuum," Kubis said. "They have to share the information between systems or else you don't have the full battlefield picture."

The MTC is located at Bldg. 990, 9th Street Middle, on South Post. Call (315) 772-9388 or visit https://go.usa.gov/xRUUp to request Individual, Collective or Virtual training.