FORT CARSON, Colo. - For the first time, a conventional U.S. Army unit was granted approval to use electronic countermeasure (ECM) equipment on United States soil.
Electronic countermeasure equipment is designed to block both incoming and outgoing signals from electronic devises. In the explosive ordnance disposal community, having such devices means that Soldiers can block potentially explosive or hazardous devices from sending or receiving transmissions from an outside source.
The Army have used ECM equipment before in wartime situations; however, the use of such equipment for training in the United States is heavily restricted.
Electronic warfare personnel with the 71st Ordnance Group (EOD) worked with the FBI, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) to gain appropriate authorizations to employ ECM equipment in a controlled environment, Oct. 30 - Nov. 2, at one of the installation's many ranges.
During employment of the ECM equipment, 71st OD GP will train and certify EOD technicians on the operation and use of the devices. This will enable the unit to train and certify more technicians from subordinate commands.
The training is unique in that the 71st OD GP had to gain approval from the FBI, FAA, FCC, and USSTRATCOM; who individually, have strict guidelines that prevent such devices from being used in the United States. The guidelines ensure the safety of the American public by restricting the use of devices that disrupt the normal operation of law enforcement or emergency communications.
According to Capt. Steven White, 71st OD GP electronic warfare officer, the process to gain approval to use ECM equipment began in December 2016.
White said the approval process culminated with Soldiers educated on proper use of the equipment, the ranges that the ECM equipment could defeat Radio Controlled IEDs, as well as how to properly employ the equipment.
A combination of classroom academics and hands-on practice exercise, led by CW2 Eric Bermudez and SFC Justin Randall, electronic warfare technicians with 71st OD GP, were used to educate the Soldiers prior to being evaluated on the final day of the exercise.
"We are establishing a precedent," Randall said. "Having our teams certified on the ECM equipment is just the beginning."
Soldiers who completed the exercise were certified as operators of the ECM equipment and are now able to employ ECM capabilities in support of combatant commanders or other government agencies to counter chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive and weapons of mass destruction threats.
White said the next step will be extending the exercise to Soldiers of 242nd Ordnance Battalion. Eventually, he added, the exercise will reach units Army-wide.
"What we learn here will change the way the Army currently trains and employs its troops," said White.
He added that until this training, EOD technicians had only notional experience using ECM equipment.
"Instead of just stating, 'we are radiating,' Soldiers were able to actually see the effects of what active ECM systems can accomplish." White said.
The reality of a training environment provides a level of confidence for a Soldier that simulated training simply cannot, according to White.