News: Army, Navy team up to protect Victory Base Complex
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - “Incoming! Incoming! Incoming!”
Indirect fire has just been identified and the alert rolls across the post like a wave.
The operators of the counter-rocket, artillery and mortar system have between three to 30 seconds to react. In that time they must determine incoming rounds might land and if it’s within range to be shot down.
The mission of intercepting indirect fire and maintaining the equipment at VBC that senses rockets and mortars falls to 60 Soldiers and 55 Sailors, said Capt. Kristopher Perrin, commander of the Headquarter and Headquarters Battery Joint Task Force Hellraisers, 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery.
“It’s the joint effort of the Army and Navy that makes this mission successful,” he said.
The unit, made up of Soldiers from Fort Lewis, Wash., and Sailors from throughout the Navy, began training together in early December 2009 and deployed to Iraq at the end of January, said Perrin.
“It’s been a very positive experience,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Wessell, the Navy senior enlisted leader for JTF 5-5 ADA. “There’s no way to put value on shooting IDF out of the sky and ultimately saving lives.”
“A very high percentage of our Sailors fought kicking and screaming to get here,” said Wessell. “They wanted to be here and they wanted to contribute to the mission.”
The unit offers a variety of skills to keep the C-RAM systems running and ready at moment’s notice.
Soldier operators work out of the Base Defense Operations Center running the wireless, audio-visual, emergency system towers and running the forward area air defense system, said Pvt. 1st Class Devon McBride, a FAAD operator.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Ravenel, platoon sergeant for the battalion, is in charge of the Soldiers who maintain the WAVES towers that warn personnel when IDF is projected to land in their area.
There are over 200 WAVES towers on Victory Base Complex that members of JTF 5-5 ADA maintain and operate, Perrin said.
The unit is also in charge of the Phalanx guns on VBC and surrounding forward operating bases.
The Phalanxes in Iraq are used to shoot down IDF, but they are normally used to defend Navy ships, said Perrin. It’s the Sailors deployed with the JTF 5-5 ADA who have worked with these guns and know what to do if one has problems.
Perrin said the guns were placed on trailers with special cooling systems to keep the Phalanxes from overheating. Everything is run by generators.
“The guns are linked to the FAAD system in our engagement center and that’s when our Soldiers take control,” said Perrin. “They process all the track data from the incoming rockets and mortars and, if the air space is clear and the projectile meets known criteria of IDF, the battle captain will give the command to fire.”
“Our radars detect enemy IDF, calculate where I came from and provide us with a predicted point of impact almost immediately on a rocket’s launch,” said 1st Lt. Ernie Young, battle captain for JTF Hellraisers. “It takes seconds for my crew and I to determine necessary actions to take.”
The guns are fired remotely, but there is an armed Sailor at each gun 24 hours a day, said Wessell. They are also first-line troubleshooters for problems when they come up.
There are other Sailors whose primary job is to maintain the Phalanx system, he said. They are in charge of making sure each part in the gun works and keeping those components in stock.
“Those guns are very labor intensive,” Wessell said. “We are working with a very complex, electronic radar system and most of the time spent is troubleshooting.”
It’s from working together to keep the C-RAM systems running that has benefitted the JTF 5-5 ADA members the most.
“I have learned a lot during my time here about how to operate in a joint environment,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sam Bartell, electronics technician for the guns.
Wessell compared JTF 5-5 ADA to a well-oiled machine that needs many precise parts to continue working efficiently and effectively, just like the equipment they operate
“We are all an integral part of this mission,” he said. “If you remove one element from the machine that our team provides, it will collapse and fall apart.”
Date Posted:07.03.2010 04:10
Location:CAMP VICTORY, IQ
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