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Army Readies for Electronic Warriors

August 17, 2009
By Henry S. Kenyon

 

The U.S. Army’s new electronic warfare (EW) military occupational specialty was launched by the need for EW specialists in Iraq. U.S. forces used jammers (the large antennas on the backs of these high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles) to counter radio-detonated improvised explosive devices. But the jammers interfered with communications equipment, prompting the need for trained personnel to operate the devices.

Professional path will place specialists across echelons.

The U.S. Army is launching a military career path focused on electronic warfare to support its forces deployed in Southwest Asia. This occupational field meets a demand by commanders to have skilled personnel operating the mobile jamming equipment that has become common throughout the theater. However, the Army is still in the process of establishing the occupation’s management, training courses and related doctrine.

Electronic warfare (EW) has evolved in new directions since the Cold War. In theaters such as Iraq, the primary threat to troops is radio-detonated improvised explosive devices (IEDs). To counter IEDs, the United States began equipping its vehicles with mobile jamming systems. The jammers were effective, but an unintended consequence was that they also affected coalition communications and command and control systems. The Army has discovered that it lacks personnel skilled at deconflicting the spectrum requirements of all these devices in an operational area.

Impetus for exploring the possibility of an EW military occupational specialty (MOS) began in 2006 with a memo from Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, USA, the commander of the Multi-National Corps–Iraq, to headquarters requesting the creation of an EW skills category, explains Anthony R. McNeill, capabilities manager for Electronic Warfare Integration at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC’s) Combined Arms Center (CAC), Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He notes that the first result of the document was a request for EW personnel from across all of the services. Navy and Air Force personnel currently are filling EW billets in Iraq-based Army units. But he adds that these non-Army troops are only a temporary measure.

The Army also recently revised its EW manual, a project undertaken in parallel to the development of the new career MOS. Released this February, FM 3-36 focuses the service’s doctrine on current threats. McNeill, who authored the new manual, explains that the previous field manual was written in the early 1990s and contained outdated Cold War doctrine, obsolete technology and an Army architecture that no longer fits the service’s modular structure. “It became evident that we didn’t have anything [operational advice] that we could actually give anybody,” he says.

By October 2007, the CAC had drafted a proposal for the EW MOS, and in summer 2008, it put together an MOS instructional packet of training material for the new specialty. In January of this year, the Army issued a servicewide notification alerting personnel and commanders of the upcoming new career field and changes to standing EW doctrine. The notification stated that an EW functional area (FA 29) was being established for officers, a 29E MOS for enlisted personnel and a classification 290A for warrant officers.

McNeill explains that the MOS packets outline each of the EW MOS and functional area responsibilities. This information was formalized in a regulation planned for release this summer. Besides the skills sets and educational material becoming available, the Army has approved the resources for the new billets, with the first positions to be filled in 2010. But he notes that this initial group numbers only about 100 billets.

The CAC now is providing a series of EW pilot courses and is soliciting personnel to join them. Classes with enough attendees are necessary for course validation. After the training material is validated, the formal training process will begin.

When the CAC was first tasked to create the new EW MOS, the development team met with representatives from across the Army and EW personnel from the other services. The team developed a series of operational functions that were required at different echelons. McNeill explains that these tasks were compared against other Army MOS types to determine if a new career field was needed.

The initial assessment determined that no Army MOS accomplished more than 50 percent of the required EW tasks. McNeill shares that this data prompted Army officials to develop the new career field.

The Army then concluded that soldiers operating counter-IED equipment had the greatest need for the career path. The MOS is directed at personnel in mobile units such as transportation and armored forces and at higher echelon organizations such as brigade combat teams. McNeill notes that professional slots exist for EW 29-series individuals at every level from battalion to the Army Service Component Command.

The Army initially estimated that it required 3,728 billets for EW personnel. However, TRADOC currently is funded to produce 1,664 personnel for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 fiscal years. McNeill explains that the billets and requirements that were not funded will be re-competed in the 2012-2017 total Army analysis. He notes that the resources may not be available for these additional billets.

Senior Army leadership must decide whether to add any EW personnel to the force structure this year, or wait for a future fiscal year. The Army must balance its forces as it restructures, and units are required to cut some positions and review the overall size of their forces. Under these circumstances, McNeill notes that it is difficult to convince planners who have just cut thousands of one type of MOS to approve several thousand billets for EW.

The CAC is still in an observation phase collecting data from the Army’s commands to determine the exact overall requirements for the EW MOS. Among the challenges of launching the MOS is the attempt to initiate training courses. Other requirements include creating a force design update to establish positions for EW organizations throughout the Army from the battalion to the company levels. The CAC also must develop a career management field and an area of concentration to help fill EW personnel requirements throughout the Army. The final task is establishing a personnel proponent that will manage EW individuals throughout their careers.

Attracting enough personnel to the courses remains a challenge. McNeill explains that although pilot courses are underway, commanders are not required to send personnel to the EW courses. “We’re trying to validate the courses by getting enough students in the courses, yet there’s nothing driving someone to go to that pilot course,” he says.

 

Until adequate numbers of trained EW specialists start entering the Army’s ranks beginning in 2011, personnel from other services, such as Maj. Jeomar Rodrigo, USAF, instructor electronic combat officer, of the 552nd Training Squadron, are serving with Army units in Iraq.

The CAC is requesting personnel to volunteer for the courses. McNeill admits filling the courses is difficult in the face of continuing deployments. However, the EW MOS group has remained aware of ongoing changes and ensured that the MOS met requirements for other programs such as the Future Combat Systems. “We’re rolling with the changes while trying to implement at the same time. It’s not an easy task trying to get something new in the Army at the same time it is reorganizing and really hasn’t figured out what its actual structure is,” he says.

Launching a new career field takes time. McNeill explains that all of the processes necessary to establish the MOS are interrelated, such as dealing with force requirements and collecting analysis. He adds that the complexity of the process is delaying the rollout of the MOS.

Creating new Army doctrine requires 24 months of reviews and related processes. Other challenges include developing training and skills requirements. McNeill explains that all of these activities also must fit into Army scheduling for funding and program development. However, the CAC was given a compressed schedule to develop and implement the EW MOS. Compared to other similar efforts, he explains that launching the career path has been rapid.

McNeill says that the CAC’s initial goals were to develop the doctrine and establish training courses, followed by accepting personnel. However, before any of these processes could begin, the implementation staff had to draft a concept for the MOS. He explains that most of the CAC’s efforts are based on this initial concept, which outlines the skill’s requirements.

The CAC is directed to build a core EW competency across the Army. This includes personnel interested in following an EW career path and educating senior leaders and soldiers about what EW specialists’ roles are. McNeill says that this process is being inserted into Army training and into the service’s procedures and systems for training and support processes. He explains that while other Army schools are not training personnel in EW skills, they now must make personnel aware of EW and its applications.

Full documentation and equipment lists for the EW MOS will be formalized this fall. The MOS requires the personnel have a security clearance, but there are no technical or specialized requirements, such as computer engineering degrees. However, McNeill says that the CAC would like to see more personnel with science backgrounds apply. He adds that there has been considerable interest in the new MOS as personnel across the Army contacted the center requesting information.

WEB RESOURCES
U.S. ArmyCombinedArmsCenter: http://usacac.army.mil/cac2
Information about the electronic warfare career field: http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cew/index.asp