News: Day of firsts for operators of new radar system
Story by Sgt. Austan Owen
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – The radar truck moved into position on top of an observation point overlooking sparse ground that has been pock-marked with impacts from artillery shells. A team of soldiers poured out of the vehicle to set up their equipment. Jumping into action, the soldiers began swinging hammers, emplacing grounding stakes into the packed gravel around the radar. They leveled the radar, grounded the generator and had the system fully functional in less than five minutes. The radar and crew are ready to track incoming mortar and artillery rounds so that a counterbattery can return fire.
The 3rd Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, became the first certified operators for the EQ-36 Counterfire Target Acquisition Radar on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Jan. 26.
The EQ-36 radar system is an enhanced version of an older counterfire radar system. The radar detects and tracks the location of enemy indirect fire, allowing friendly forces to accurately return fire. The radar also tracks friendly fire and gives feedback on the accuracy of artillery strikes.
The enhanced radar system has several distinct advantages over the older counterbattery system. The new system has a 360-degree tracking ability, allowing it to monitor incoming fire from all directions where the older version only had 90-degree capability, said Sgt. Cory Postma, section chief.
“If you are on a FOB [Forward Operating Base] down range you would need fewer systems because the new one can provide more coverage than the older system,” said Postma of Shelton, Wash.
The 360-degree tracking ability isn’t the radar’s only improvement.
“This system is fast and agile,” said Spc. Alexander Clements, target acquisition team. “It will save us at least 10 minutes in set up time.”
When the unit is on the move in a war zone, reaction time is vital as artillery shells rain down.
“It’s all about time; the clock is always ticking,” said Clements, of St. Charles, Ill., “We are here to save lives, to get this system up and running, and get the guns counterfiring.”
With the added benefits of the new EQ-36 and the changes to it, the radar operators’ job is to know his system and be able to use it quickly and effectively, exactly what the platoon did this day, said Postma.
The headquarters battery has the first platoon on JBLM to conduct displaced equipment training for the EQ-36 radar. This training was incorporated into a field training exercise along with a live-fire exercise. These exercises allowed the soldiers to apply their classroom training and reinforce both the individual and collective tasks in a tactical environment, said Capt. Sean Whelan, HHB, commander.
If you were to talk to Sgt. Cory Postma, section chief, about his team he would beam with pride and tell you how much he appreciates working with the members of his section. He would continue to praise them for their motivation and skill at their job. They recently became part of a very select group and joined the ranks of the first teams to ever certify on the EQ-36 radar system.
“We are a certified team,” said Clements. “We know everything from one end to the other, up and down. We know everything mechanical and electronic on this radar.”
The EQ-36 isn’t in the battery’s arsenal yet. It received the training as a precursor for deployment to Afghanistan where it is currently used. When the team arrives overseas and takes over one of the target acquisition radars, it will already have a working knowledge of the equipment it will be using.
“It’s nice to know that we are setting the bar for the other platoons on post,” said Pvt. Zachary Hilleary, team member.
The members of the radar section are proud of what they have accomplished as the first section from JBLM to receive certification on the radar. With the knowledge they now possess they are the subject matter experts in their field.