Recently the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division Electronic Warfare Cell was awarded the Association of Old Crows (AOC) Outstanding Army unit award for 2012. Both CW2 Eric Colon and SFC Brian Smith traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to represent the unit at the 49th Annual AOC Convention during the Celebration of Excellence Award ceremony September 24th. The AOC is an Electronic Warfare and Information Operations association which promotes electromagnetic spectrum operations.
2HBCT 1ID EW Cell earned the award from their work done during Operation New Dawn from November 2010 to November 2011 in Baghdad, Iraq. Prior to the unit's arrival in Iraq there was not an experienced EW unit in place.
The unit contributed to several electronic warfare operations which included, creating a CREW specialist program training course, maintaining over 1,046 CREW devices, fielding JACKAL systems, conducting multiple electromagnetic environment surveys, processing joint tactical airstrike requests as well as conducting routine quality control battlefield evaluations.
One of the most notable initiatives from the 2HBCT 1ID EW Cell performed while in Iraq was creating the CREW specialist certification course. Resources from the Engineering, Fielding and Sustainment (EF&S) headquarters along with the Iraq Theatre of Operations (ITO) CREW course made this possible.
"We established a training that created a CREW skill set, which trained over 211 Soldiers on procedures to load and test and essentially made them CREW specialists so they would be able to test their own systems." Colon said.
This course trained Soldiers in the brigade to operate CREW equipment and took the manning levels from 20 to 319 percent in five months.
"I changed my MOS to EW in 2010 when I had just gotten back from my first tour in Iraq," said Smith. "I really enjoyed teaching Soldiers how to use EW devices such as CREW so they were able to protect themselves."
Aside from the CREW training program in February of 2011 the unit conducted a forward operational assessment of the JACKAL system. While in Iraq this unit fielded 55 systems. The JACKAL systems played an integral role, which improved the commander's ability to maneuver within the Iraq Joint Operational Area (IJOA) and neutralized emerging threats.
"Our unit updated threat loads for vehicles in fewer than two weeks which was definitely one of our greatest accomplishments." said Colon.
Later during the unit's tour in Iraq, they became aware there was an increase of electromagnetic inference that had a negative effect on maneuver support and combat within IJOA. This prompted the unit to conduct multiple electromagnetic environment surveys at four bases in Baghdad. The results from these surveys played a key role in solving the electromagnetic interference problem.
"The EMS in Iraq is convoluted and very dirty and therefore operating in that environment is very difficult," said Colon.
Over 783 joint tactical airstrike requests were submitted by the unit. These requests provided protection for combat logistic patrols and ground operations to prevent radio-controlled improvised explosive devices (RCIEDs).
"The fact that we helped contribute to preventing Soldiers from being killed in RCIED attacks was really good, said Colon. "Every MOS is important, but this one gives back, you really are protecting Soldiers."
Soldiers from the unit traveled across the battlefield by ground and air convoys to conduct routine circulation electronic warfare quality control evaluations. After the data was collected the unit was able to identify weaknesses within the IJOA and take the proper steps to correct problem areas.
"A lot of people do not really know what we did, but they knew what we did was important," said Smith.
2HBCT 1ID EW Cell was selected to receive this award out of many unit nominations that were received by the G-3/5/7 Army Electronic Warfare headquarters.
"I was pleased to select the 2HBCT 1ID EW Cell to receive the 2012 AOC Outstanding Army Unit Award, said COL Jim Ekvall, Army electronic warfare division chief. " We received many nominations from units that support electronic warfare, but this particular unit stood out among the rest. This unit not only was innovative and created a new CREW training course while in Iraq, but diligently protected Soldiers lives by properly maintaining several pertinent devices across the electromagnetic spectrum."
The unit which no longer is overseas in Iraq, is stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas submitted the award nomination earlier this year.
"We couldn't have won without our other NCOs," said Smith. "The NCOs in this battalion are the ones who deserve the recognition. With good Soldiers a unit will be successful."
The AOC awarded EW unit awards to each of the services.
"As the US Army continues to build EW and develop Soldiers and leaders who are both aware of the potential of EW and able to implement EW operations, this AOC Army EW award can only serve to encourage Army EW along a path that will lead to a world class capability," said John Clifford, AOC Director of International Conferences.
The 2HBCT 1ID EW Cell has the distinguished honor of receiving an award from the AOC.
"We were shocked at first but at the end of the day we were just doing our job," said Colon. "It is of course special to be recognized and shows that with enough motivation you can execute EW mission's successfully." said Colon.