June 18, 2009

116th BCT gets familiar with new equipment, systems at annual training

By Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. —As the Soldiers of the 116th Brigade Combat Team conduct their annual training at Fort Pickett this month, they are training on and preparing to field more than a dozen new systems designed to increase their efficiency and effectiveness both in and out of combat.

  M1200 Armored Knight

Soldiers from the 116th Brigade Combat Team splash through the mud during driver's training in the new M1200 Armored Knight June 17 at Fort Pickett. The Knight is one of many new systems the brigade is fielding during annual training. (Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“We’re fielding new weapons, equipment and command and control systems,” said Lt. Col. Allan Carter, director of operations, plans and training for the 116th Brigade Combat Team. “We’ve received the latest, most sophisticated versions of Army equipment.”

The 116th Brigade Combat Team was chosen to receive the new systems as part of the Army Chief of Staff’s Executive Order. According to an Army News story, the Army reset program is one of Gen. George W. Casey Jr.'s four imperatives, and it costs an average of $16 billion to reset more than 20 brigades each year. The program began more than three years ago and is responsible for recapitalizing or replacing more than 300,000 pieces of equipment.

The program applies to both active duty and reserve component units. One of its goals is to get new equipment to Soldiers within six months of a unit's return, that way they’ll have plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the equipment and train on it before beginning another deployment.
Among the new equipment the brigade received are vehicles, weapons and communication systems.

  Mine Detection System

Spc. Al Bowker, a Soldier with Company A, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team, trains on a new Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System during annual training at Fort Pickett (Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The brigade’s combat units are receiving the Javelin anti-tank missile. The Javelin replaces the Dragon system and employed by dismounted infantry to defeat armored combat vehicles. It’s a shoulder-fired weapon with a range of more than 2,500 meters.

Soldiers are also training on the new M120mm mortar. This new weapon can reach an enemy target more than 7,000 meters away and has a 70 meter killing radius.

But the new equipment isn’t just for unit-level use. Soldiers received new M4 rifles and a number of units received new sniper rifles.

Among the new vehicles the 116th is fielding are four M1200 Armored Knights. The Knight is a wheeled, armored vehicle that carries the equipment needed to quickly bring in guided bombs, missiles and shells.

The brigade also increased its haul and lift capability thanks to a large quantity of medium tactical vehicles, according to Carter.

Many units in the 116th are also receiving a new mine detection system that fuses metal detection and ground penetrating radar. The AN/PSS-14 Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System is a handheld mine detector that can be transported by backpack and is capable of detecting all metallic and non-metallic anti-tank and anti-personnel mines.

In addition units in the 116th BCT are preparing to receive a number of new AN/PYQ-10 Simple Key Loaders. This portable, hand-held device is used to securely receive, store and transfer data between compatible cryptographic and communications equipment.

Because of recent deployments overseas, many Soldiers throughout the brigade are familiar with many of the Army’s newest command and control systems, which are already in use in combat zones. But now they are getting reacquainted with the systems as their units are fielding them here.

The 116th BCT is now fielding a number of components for the Army Battle Command System, including the Integrated Meteorological Measuring Set and the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System. The ABCS is a digital command, control, communications, computers and intelligence system for the battlefield Army.

AFATDS provides fully automated support for planning, coordinating, controlling, and executing fires and effects. It automatically links a full array of battlefield sensors with weapon systems.
The Integrated Meteorological Measuring Set can acquire and process meteorological data, including wind speed and direction, humidity, temperature and pressure.

Meanwhile the Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care is a sophisticated medical tracking system for deployed Soldiers. It works with a number of different programs to integrate and support a comprehensive medical information system, enabling lifelong electronic medical records, streamlined medical logistics and enhanced situational awareness for Army tactical forces.

But the new systems aren’t just important in a combat situation. New water purifying systems received by Company A, 429th Brigade Support Battalion could be used in a domestic capacity should a natural disaster require the Guard to provide potable water to Virginia residents. The Tactical Water Purification System is mounted on a flat track truck and has a 15,000 gallon storage and distribution capacity. Meanwhile the Light Weight Purifier is highly portable, has a 1,000 gallon tank and can have clean water ready in 45 minutes.

In addition to providing information on the battlefield, both Ravens and Shadows, two new unmanned aerial vehicle systems the 116th BCT is now fielding, can also be used to provide information from the air in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster.

“All of this equipment is federally funded but we can already see how it can help us perform our state mission too,” Carter said.

The majority of the new equipment arrived in time for annual training, according to Carter. But some command and control systems won’t arrive until later in the year. The 116th is scheduled to completely finish fielding the new systems by March 2010.

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