Students assigned to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School pull a simulated patient under an obstacle during the survival phase of Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape Level-C training (SERE) at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, Jan. 13, 2021. (Photo Credit: K. Kassens) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- A team of Fort Rucker agencies recently used innovation and the adaptation of an existing system to help the U.S. Army Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School keep better track of its students as they hone their newfound skills in the field.

But it wasn’t the students’ amazing evasion skills that created the need for a better tracking method, it was an ineffective system, according to CW3 Cory Krogmeier, U.S. Army SERE School aviation safety officer.

“The previous system we were using was old, failing and not originally designed for our uses – this caused many issues that took many hours and many dollars to maintain,” Krogmeier said. “The Command Tracker System enables SERE cadre to have a real-time tracking capability. This system allows us to ensure the safety of our students while they are applying their survival and evasion skills – it’s a cost-effective and efficient upgrade.”

The Fort Rucker Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security had already been using the CTS to keep track of its employees working on the various ranges on post – and the Directorate of Public Safety was also using the system to track its personnel – for over a decade when SERE officials approached about possibly using the system, as well, according to Edward Stasiak, DPTMS range officer.

CTS is based off of software that tracks handheld mobile radios, which includes the added benefit of not only knowing where people are, but also being able to speak with them, Stasiak said, adding that this could be a vital capability in the case of an emergency.

“We looked into it and determined that the amount of radios we put on the system didn’t significantly degrade the system, and we were able to configure (the amount of radios needed for SERE), created icons for them and we used (Geographic Information System) for the mapping tools,” he said. “They can actually see the movements of their teams while in the training areas, facilitating emergency response and the ability to get to them if they veer too far outside the boundary areas.”

This system also updates every 45-60 seconds, as opposed to the system SERE was using, which only updated about every four to five minutes, Stasiak said.

DPTMS next brought the Network Enterprise Center in to help finalize activating the system for SERE, and the NEC staff proved highly responsive, he said, adding that it took about three weeks to fully implement the system for the school.

“The NEC is always fully supportive of everything we do and their response to some of the unique requests were excellent,” Stasiak said. “The NEC did an excellent job with next-day work order support, and the contract work was very expeditious and helpful to the process – they’re a bunch of hard-working and dedicated people.”

From the SERE side, the working relationships and end product were both top notch, Krogmeier said.

“Working with DPTMS was very easy – they provided the knowledge of what equipment we would need to interface with the system and even coordinated with the NEC to ensure the proper infrastructure existed,” he said. “The integration of SERE into the Command Tracker System was smooth and seamless. This streamlined process helped SERE get everything up and running to enhance training oversight and student safety.

“SERE has a great working relationship with DPTMS,” he added. “Both teams communicate well and work together to ensure we all meet the Army intent to train Soldiers in preparation for the next engagement.”

SERE is scheduled to get the Army’s new Soldier Monitoring System in fiscal 2024 or 25, Stasiak said, adding that this solution is “an excellent stopgap between now and the time they get their SMS.”

“Our mission is to support Soldiers, and any time we can help them and make them a more operational and well-trained force, it’s a good thing,” he said. “We are constantly networking to try to create improvements and increase training value for our Soldiers.”