Defeating one of the enemy's number one threats of utilizing IEDs has been greatly tied to the success of the systems designed to counter their ability and that mission recently received a big upgrade in terms of the knowledge and capabilities of those assigned to operate and maintain Counter Radio Controlled IED Warfare (CREW) devices.

Designed to offer maintainers and operators with a more realistic training, served as the need for the new CREW Maintenance University, which opened its doors to students this Spring. The course is a five-day hands-on training intensive program designed to offer the Soldiers, civilians and contractors who are responsible for CREW systems the chance to troubleshoot and actually handle all the variations of fielded devices.

The CREW Family of Systems provides electronic protection of vehicles and crew members in mounted, dismounted and fixed site operations (from roadside bombs) while employed in forward combat areas during offensive, defensive, military operations in urban terrain, rear area logistical support, cantonment area security, and during peacekeeping systems are usually maintained by deployed FSRs (Field Service Representatives) and Electronic Warfare Soldiers.

"The need for a new training course came out of a requirement from the field based on lessons learned from the FSRs and Soldiers that we previously trained," said Willie Jackson, Product Manager CREW training manager. "We discovered that following the completion of the previously offered course, the Soldiers and FSRs that deployed had to go through an additional 30-days of training upon arriving in theater because the training we provided wasn't realistic."

Prior to offering the new CREW University Maintenance course, students attended a three-day course offered at Ft Monmouth, NJ that was strictly taught through power point briefings. The current course is 80% hands-on instruction utilizing a combination of a lab that hosts five variations of CREW devices as well as various vehicles that students will be responsible for installing the systems on.

The hands-on training consists of actually going through and putting load sets into the system, verifying the firmware, installing the systems on the vehicle and going through the troubleshooting steps. "We actually got the recurring areas of deficiency from theater and we incorporated those into the course," notes Jackson. "Students will install the system, troubleshoot the system and re-test it to make sure everything checked out."

Course attendees will have an opportunity to install and de-install CREW devices onto MRAPs, Abrams Tanks, Strykers as well as other vehicles and will train on maintaining fixed site systems along with the proper procedures for testing devices prior to leaving the forward operating base (FOB).

Feedback from students has been extremely positive, especially from those who have had an opportunity to attend both the old and new version of CREW Maintenance University.

"It is completely night and day, everything was classes and death by power point and I don't remember learning that much," said Alnaldo Gonzalez, a student attending from the Department of State who previously took the course in 2007 prior to deploying for the past four years supporting CREW devices. "The hands on lab is awesome, we can try out a lot of different scenarios, making sure you go to each system and then load the system. Back in 2007 we didn't touch any systems and you have to touch something to learn it efficiently to do your job, especially when a Soldier's life is depending on it."

The majority of students who attend the course are made up of a combination of the Field Service Representatives out of Tobyhanna Army Depot as well as Electronic Warfare (EW) students. The program also trains EW instructors from Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC)as well as the Marine CREW master gunner course. CREW Maintenance University is open to all DoD military and federal agencies.

Providing a more hands on experience was only one of the missions for CREW Maintenance University, the course also serves as a incubator for more permanent training programs that will be established at TRADOC and within the Marine Corp for CREW training.

"The end goal for CREW Maintenance University is to train the trainer until the Army establishes the military occupation specialty to take over the role of CREW maintenance and CREW operator training within TRADOC," said Jackson. "Once a training course is established in TRADOC, PM CREW will discontinue the program, possibly in FY 12."

"Everything we do in PdM CREW has a dramatic impact on saving soldiers lives. We have the Army's best acquisition and budget specialists, integrators, logisticians, testers and Engineers who ensure the best products are provided to the soldiers," said Lt. Col. Bruce Ryba, Product Manager CREW. The impact CREW Maintenance University has had on making sure these systems are maintained properly to save lives is unparalleled. Willie Jackson and his team are producing highly trained maintainers and trainers that will continue to protect our soldiers every day so that they can come home to their loved ones when their mission is complete."