JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- Soldiers assigned to the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade are training on new equipment used by signals intelligence analysts, in preparation for deployment.
Among other duties, these Soldiers from both the 502nd and the 109th Military Intelligence Battalions specialize in collecting and analyzing intercepted enemy communications. For the past three weeks, they have trained on the next-generation of a system known as the PROPHET sensor.
"The PROPHET tactical signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection and processing systems are employed by tactical commanders to gather the unit's intelligence needs based on the survey, exploit, and analysis of enemy communications on the battlefield," said Chief Warrant Officer Nathan Watkins, a 502nd MI Bn. signals intelligence advisor.
The BfSB is fielding the latest generation of the PROPHET family of sensors, called PROPHET-Enhanced. This version is capable of collecting and exploiting a full spectrum of enemy communications signals.
These latest PROPHET sensor packages are loaded onto military all-terrain vehicles (MATV) for situations where the equipment is needed in a field environment.
"This latest version of the PROPHET enhances a unit's capabilities by deploying at greater ranges from a headquarters and providing signals intelligence of a greater area. It is also flexible enough to deploy in support of tailored or short-notice missions where robust signals intelligence collection and analysis is critical to mission success and force protection," Watkins said.
Because of its capability, it is often meshed with theater and national-level collection assets to complement more complete signals intelligence collection.
The PROPHET sensors are found throughout Afghanistan and are supporting every deployed brigade on the ground.
"Not only do they support the tactical commander, but are powerful enough to respond to theater and national-level intelligence requirements simultaneously," Watkins said.
They are instrumental, however, in providing key information to tactical commanders vital to successful counter-insurgency missions, force protection, and partnered operations with International Security Assistance Forces.
Soldiers who use the systems are military intelligence Soldiers in SIGINT-specific military occupational specialties 35N (SIGINT analyst), 35P (cryptologic linguist/EW collection specialist), and 35S (non-voice signals analyst).
Intelligence and electronic warfare maintainers, (MOS 35T), are vital to system maintenance and optimization.
"Our SIGINT Soldiers are conducting familiarization training with the PROPHET program manager and his fielding team as part of the initial fielding of the new equipment," said Warrant Officer Joseph Coffman, a SIGINT tech for 502nd MI Bn.
For these Soldiers, field training exercises that began in March were the culminating event after working with the program managers, who come from Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.
The project managers brought a training package and PROPHET equipment for the Soldiers to use.
There are four sensor vehicles talking to a cell of intelligence analysts at the Prophet Analysis Cell (PAC).
They talk back and forth with Soldiers in the field who are collecting signals -- any communications, transmissions that enemy forces send over the airwaves.
For the training scenarios, the Soldiers come out with specific types of transmissions to collect. Through the mass of communications, these collectors sift through and select what they're looking for and transmit it to the PAC.
"Once they have received that training, they continue to refine proficiency by incorporating the equipment into platoon and company-level training events. Apart from the hardware, the key to effective employment of the PROPHET system is that operators are also well-trained analysts," Coffman said.
The analysts work in secure facilities where they can access the sensitive data the systems are capable of collecting. Using modern web-based connectivity and tools, they conduct analysis training on real-world data which lets them sharpen their analytical skills, and also sharpens their target knowledge before deployment.