Joint operations and technology on today's battlefield

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Clifton Farr
  • 4th Security Forces Squadron
When I came into the service 20 years ago, there were certainly no computer on every desk. If you were lucky, you had access to a typewriter and even better, a typewriter with an erasable ribbon. One movie, "War Games," gave you a glimpse of what technology could do on the battlefield.

As I went off to the first Gulf War though, I saw none of this.

When we hit the ground, we laid out the infamous c-wire, built defensive fighting positions and filled way more sandbags than I care to remember. Our control center consisted of a small shack with field phones, a base station radio and a typewriter, of course.

There were no early-warning capabilities around the perimeter other than the few manned observation posts and some well-placed trip flares. We had no Hascal, Texas or Alaska defensive barriers that we use today.

Yes, we won the war, but what if?

Nearly 20 years later, I found myself returning for the fifth time to a new battlefield.

This time when I showed up, I was introduced to the Joint Defense Operations Center.

Even the movie "War Games" had nothing on this new warfighter capability. I was awestruck from the moment I entered.

One wall was covered with huge plasma screens and the rest were filled with various maps and boards to track the numerous ongoing missions. In the middle of this room were three rows of work stations with, no not typewriters, but computers.

From this room, we could see out beyond the base perimeter, just by toggling a camera joystick. If that didn't do it, we could quickly call upon a Predator aircraft, which was often being controlled by someone back in the U.S., or any other aircraft up at the time.

Normally you would have to rely on the pilots' visual assessment, but thanks to technology, we now have a direct video feed into one of our numerous plasma screens. This means we are able to see everything in real time.

To enhance our aircraft security on the ground, we now have the Enhanced Tactical Automated Sensor System. Any intruder attempting to breach the perimeter would set off one of nearly 300 alarms and trigger the nearest camera, which would be relayed to the operations center and could be displayed on yet another plasma screen for all in the room to see. Once a threat was verified, a response team could be dispatched to neutralize it.

The fight was now the same, day or night, as we also had the new thermal and in-direct fire detection capability. This proved to be a lifesaver time and again as the enemy would often try to plant improvised explosive devices on the roadways leading around the base in an attempt to disrupt operations and weaken our morale.

The Counter Rocket Artillery Mortar system further provided us with the ability to detect incoming fire. We could now give troops a chance to take cover before rounds were able to land. The motor-detection system also gave us both the ability to pinpoint the location of the enemy that launched the round and the location of probable impact sites so we could send emergency responders.

Thanks to all this technology, we were able to quickly evaluate and eliminate the enemy through a joint effort.

Tying all these systems together was a combined Air Force and Army effort. Our combined effort through the use of technology allowed us to safely secure a base populace of more than 40,000.

What will the next 20 years bring?