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    Attack. Protect. Support. Electronic warfare meets modern-day Army



    Story by Spc. Brandon Bednarek 

    4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

    CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq - In an ever-changing technological world, there exists an invisible plane of physics that allows communication devices to transmit their intended signals. Sometimes those signals work for us. Sometimes they work against us.

    To mitigate those differences, Army electronic warfare soldiers assess and analyze the electromagnetic and radio spectrums in order to protect ground forces in hostile environments.

    Electronic warfare, according to military doctrine, is defined as any military action involving the use of electromagnetic and directed energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum to attack the enemy or adversary.

    With the rise of radio-controlled IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army realized a growing need for experts in the electromagnetic spectrum.

    “The Army didn’t have an electronic warfare program going into [Operation Iraqi Freedom],” explained WO1 Steven P. Quast, an electronic warfare officer with the 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Armored Division. “When our adversary started using RCIEDs the need became obvious.”

    That’s why, last year, the Army established a military occupational specialty specifically dedicated to the electronic warfare realm.

    “The Army stood up a whole new MOS just for electronic warfare – and that’s exactly what was needed,” he said.

    As an enlisted soldier, Quast felt he had reached the pinnacle as a fire support specialist and sought out a new role within the Army, this time as a warrant officer.

    “I was looking for a brand new challenge – something that was fresh and was new,” he admitted. “I actually put in a warrant package and I requested a re-class into electronic warfare.”

    Along with five other warrant officers, Quast was among the few graduates of Fort Sill’s inaugural electronic warfare course.

    “My class was the very first ‘official’ 290A class,” he said. “There were three pilot courses to validate mine, but we were the first.”

    Under the Army’s Information Operations, electronic warfare is divided into three divisions: electronic attack, electronic protect, and electronic support.

    The most prevalent piece of electronic warfare equipment in the Army’s arsenal is the Counter-Radio Electronic Warfare system, which acts a mobile-based “jammer” to attack the enemy’s use of the radio spectrum, said Quast.

    However, because CREW systems manipulate the radio spectrum, EWOs must work closely with communications specialists to ensure that military communication remains reliable and unaffected, he continued.

    “That’s where the finesse, so to speak, comes from - being able to attack [the enemy’s] use of it while preventing degradation of your assets,” said Quast.

    Having been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, Quast revealed that understanding an area’s communication network is imperative in determining how to protect or attack the radio spectrum.

    “Iraq obviously has a lot more infrastructure - lots of modern-day type of communications,” he said.

    “Afghanistan, by contrast, has a lot less infrastructure, but a lot better use of different types of radios.”

    As a result, electronic warfare is quickly emerging as a fully integrated warfighting enabler in areas like Afghanistan, where a large number of equipment and targeting techniques are being fielded, said Quast.

    Although a newly created Army specialty, electronic warfare has played a significant role in military operations since WWII, where radar and jamming equipment heavily contributed to the successes of an Allied victory, he said.

    Prior to Operation Overlord at Normandy in 1944, a Royal Air Force squadron deceived the German army and convinced them that a second fleet of Allied ships was approaching another French coastline, according to the website.

    Armed with specialized jamming equipment, the squadron’s planes mimicked the radar signatures of warships by flying “low and slow” across the English Channel, said Quast.

    “Basically it was a deception tactic. They used electronic warfare as a deception to make the Germans think that we were coming from a different way.”

    The use of radar also helped the Allied achieve victory in the Pacific campaign as well, he explained.

    “Once we started putting radar into American bombers and torpedo bombers, that’s when the tide started to kind of turn,” he said.

    The newly incorporated radar systems allowed American planes to successfully conduct night missions against a powerful Japanese fleet, which controlled the Pacific for most of the war, said Quast.

    “Radar was when you really started to see the use of electronic warfare,” he said.

    Like its use in WWII, electronic warfare has become a cornerstone in today’s military operations. One of the most important pieces of that cornerstone lies in the instruction and education of equipment that keeps soldiers protected.

    “That’s one of the reasons I really love this job,” said Quast. “I still get to be down at the company and battalion level talking to soldiers, seeing how they’re doing, and educating them.”

    As Quast checks the health and functionality of vehicle systems, he will quiz soldiers on the basic “know-hows” of the systems and respond to questions that they may have. From his perspective, soldiers seem very attuned to what he has taught them.

    “Today’s soldier is very technologically oriented, they catch on very quickly,” he said. “A lot of the time they want to know more about it. It almost gets to the point where you have to stop talking.”

    The limits of modern technology are constantly being tested and, as that happens, the Army’s electronic warfare program will adapt and evolve with it, said Quast.

    “Just like the electromagnetic spectrum is everywhere - so is the EWO.”


    Date Taken: 10.30.2011
    Date Posted: 10.30.2011 09:16
    Story ID: 79279

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