By MELISSA ZIOBRO, CECOM LCMCNovember 5, 2009
(Editor's note: This is part three of a three-part series intended to introduce some of the history of Team C4ISR and its predecessors at Fort Monmouth to the APG community, as well as to those Team C4ISR members who have joined the team at Aberdeen Proving Ground.)
The Army disbanded the technical services (including the Signal Corps) and established the Electronics Command, or ECOM, at Fort Monmouth in 1962. This organization managed signal research, development and logistics support, and supplied combat troops with a number of high-technology commodities during the Vietnam conflict. These included mortar locators, aerial reconnaissance equipment, sensors, air traffic control systems, night vision devices and surveillance systems.
Electronics Command, for example, developed the AN/PPS-5 man-portable surveillance radar to re-place the AN/PPS-4 and AN/TPS-33. The 95-pound set had a 360-degree scan capability. It could detect personnel within five kilometers and vehicles within 10. Electronics Command awarded the production contract in April 1966, following evaluation of engineering development models in Southeast Asia. There were more than 350 sets in the theater by the end of 1970.
Though often deadlined for lack of repair parts, the set was popular with the troops because it reduced the need for hazardous surveillance patrols.
According to one commander, "One AN/PPS-5 in operating condition is worth five hundred men."
The high-technology commodities supported during the Vietnam conflict also included communications equipment. Electronics Command Commander Maj. Gen. Frank W. Moorman (July 1963 to October 1965) ordered the new, transistorized FM radios of the AN/VRC-12/PRC-25 families shipped to Vietnam in July 1965 in response to Gen. William C. Westmoreland's complaints about the AN/PRC-10. (Westmoreland commanded American military operations in the Vietnam War at its peak from 1964 to 1968.)
The new, transistorized FM radios of the AN/VRC-12/PRC-25 families soon became the mainstay of tactical communications in Southeast Asia. Electronics Command awarded competing production contracts to sustain the flow.
Electronics Command's next commander, Maj. Gen. William B. Latta (October 1965 to September 1969), personally browbeat contractors to ensure timely delivery of this product. The command delivered 20,000 VRC-12 and 33,000 PRC-25 radios to Southeast Asia in three and a half years. The PRC-25 was, according to Westmoreland's successor Gen. Creighton Abrams (1968 to 1972), "the single most important tactical item in Vietnam."
After several reorganizations on post, the new Communications-Electronics Command, or CECOM, stood up effective May 1, 1981, charged with research, development, engineering, acquisition and materiel readiness of communications and electronic systems.
The personnel of this organization worked around the clock during the Gulf War to equip Soldiers with everything from jammers to night vision, to surveillance and intelligence systems, and to sustain these systems in the field.
Fort Monmouth's systems gave U.S. forces unprecedented capabilities for communication, command and control, surveillance, target acquisition, fire control, position and data analysis.
For example, 24th ID Commander Maj. Gen. Barry McCaffrey commented, "our night vision technology provided us the most dramatic mismatch of the war," and Brig. Gen. John Stewart remarked, "JSTARS [Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System] was the single most valuable intelligence and target collection system in Desert Storm."
A March 1991 Newsweek article said of the Fort Monmouth-managed Firefinder radars' usefulness, "When an Iraqi Battery fired a round, a U.S. Army Q-37 radar would sight it and feed the battery's coordinates to computers that directed the American guns. It took less than a minute to drop a counter round on the Iraqis. Many of them soon stopped firing. To pull the lanyard was to invite death."
Support for the troops continues today. The team headquartered at Fort Monmouth intensively manages more than 100 major defense programs, amounting to more than $10 billion in total obligation authority to acquire, field and provide new equipment training on C4ISR systems.
In recent years the command has repaired, recapitalized or replaced hundreds of thousands of C4ISR systems. The CECOM LCMC team is responsible for almost half the Army's inventory of end items and spare parts.
One such item proving critical in GWOT operations today is the Common Missile Warning System, or CMWS. This system, embedded on aviation platforms, detects incoming heat seeking and infrared missiles and provides audible and visual warnings to pilots.
An Apache pilot recently wrote to the command, "I wanted you to know that your product saved my life today. I'm an Apache Longbow pilot deployed to Iraq and while on a mission today I was fired upon. The on-board CMWS deployed and defeated the missile saving myself and my copilot."
As the command's mission transfers to Maryland in the coming years as a result of a 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decision, the fort's personnel will work tirelessly to ensure that support to the Warfighter continues uninterrupted.
The long history of advances in communications and electronics systems will be continued at Aberdeen Proving Ground by what a former CECOM LCMC commander referred to as the command's most important resource-its people. Although the relocation will entail significant challenges, fort personnel realize the stakes and will rise to the challenge, just as they and their predecessors have with every conflict they have supported since World War I.
This special community of scientists, engineers, program managers, logisticians and support staff has given the Army the world's best, most reliable systems for extracting, digesting, and communicating battlefield information. The capabilities these systems provide have given the American Soldier and America's allies a decisive edge over their enemies and have contributed to saving countless lives from World War I to today's overseas contingency operations.