Current Operations Section of the Modular Brigade FEC in

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					                                                                                              One of the most important jobs the
                                                                                              current operations section performs
                                                                                              is processing and quality control of
                                                                                              air support requests (ASRs) for close
                                                                                              air support (CAS). This increases the
                                                                                              level of force protection for all TFs
                                                                                              in the AOR and allows units greater
                                                                                              flexibility of movement.

                                                                                                                                           US Air Force Photo by MSgt Lance Cheung
  Current Operations Section of the
 Modular Brigade FEC in Afghanistan
       peration Enduring Freedom (OEF)           By Captain Terrence A. Adams                   Finally, one of the most important jobs
       has entered the seventh phase of                                                       the current operations section performs
       operations in Afghanistan, and a        lenges in the 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Di-       is processing and quality control of air
new type of unit has entered that bat-         vision, while deployed to Afghanistan.         support requests (ASRs) for close air
tlespace: the modular design infantry            Current Operations Section Respon-           support (CAS). This increases the level
brigade combat team (IBCT). It has the         sibilities and Manning. The current            of force protection for all TFs in the
ability to obtain specific effects, not just   operations section includes a captain, two     AOR and allows units greater flexibility
generate raw combat power.                     sergeants first class, four Soldiers and Air   of movement.
  One of the IBCT’s main components            Force joint terminal attack controllers          Supervising the clearance of fires for
is the fires and effects cell (FEC), which     (JTACs). It is responsible for coordinat-      the TFs is another important function
recently was renamed the brigade fire sup-     ing, gathering and managing the task           of the brigade FEC current operations
port cell (FSC). The FEC is responsible for    forces’ (TFs’) lethal fires assets to ensure   section. The requesting battalion’s fire
coordinating not only lethal fires, such as    mission success and the highest level of       direction center (FDC) and tactical op-
artillery, but also nonlethal effects. These   force protection. Its other responsibili-      erations center (TOC) are responsible
nonlethal effects include information          ties include quality control of airspace       for clearing fires in their battlespace.
operations (IO), psychological operations      control measure requests (ACMRs) for           The brigade helps clear fires only when
(PSYOP), public affairs (PA) and civil-        restricted operating zones (ROZs), in-         the battalion cannot reach an agency
military operations (CMO).                     formation management operations and            required to clear the fires. These are
  There is little doubt that the FEC has en-   assistance for TFs with troops-in-contact.     agencies such as a civilian air agency,
hanced the IBCT’s capabilities. With the       Tracking all fire support assets in country    military fixed- or rotary-wing, or other
advent of the FEC came the requirement         from M198s down to 60-mm mortars is            Coalition forces.
for the current operations section, which      an additional duty.                              The current operations section is not
only is stood up during deployments.             The current operations section also          permanently manned—it only forms
The responsibilities and manning of the        tracks target acquisition assets in the        when the brigade deploys. When the
current operations section is diverse and      TF’s area of responsibility (AOR). These       brigade is in garrison and not perform-
often complex. But even with the new           assets range from Q-36 and Q-37 Fire-          ing its wartime functions, the members
manning and technology, the current ops        finder radars to the unattended transient      of the current operations section are part
section faces challenges.                      acoustic measurement and signature             of the lethal and nonlethal fires sections
  This article discusses the FEC current       intelligence (MASINT) system, called           within the FEC.
operations section operations and chal-        UTAMS.                                           According to the modified table of

44	   July-August 2006    Field Artillery
organization and equipment (MTOE),               The system we finally developed con-             then forwarded to the battlefield coordi-
the captain or officer-in-charge (OIC)         solidated all requests for a specific date         nation detachment (BCD).
of the current operations section is the       and let one shift handle them. This system           Just because a request has been sub-
brigade fire control officer (FCO). When       worked well and ensured that all requests          mitted to the brigade FEC doesn’t mean
the section is stood up, this officer’s main   had been inspected for mistakes by two             the ACM is, or will be, approved and
responsibility is to supervise the current     sets of eyes before they were forwarded            established. TFs have made the mistake
operations personnel. He ensures that all      to division for processing.                        of submitting requests and then imme-
brigade TFs have the fire support assets         Another problem that quickly presented           diately assuming the ACMs in AFATDS
they need to accomplish their missions.        itself was Soldiers’and leaders’lack of for-       have been established.
This means ensuring that all ASRs are          mal training in completing and inspecting            This initially proved to be a challenge,
prioritized and processed.                     ASRs. Our Air Force counterparts solved            but after a few cases of ACMs being
  In addition to daily battle-tracking         this problem by giving FEC personnel               established in the AFATDS by the TFs
responsibilities, the OIC of the cur-          classes on what to look for and helping            but then cancelled by the brigade FEC,
rent operations section also attends the       with quality control of all ASRs.                  the problem resolved itself and no longer
division’s daily joint fires board (JFB)         I strongly recommend that current oper-          was an issue.
meetings via information workspace. The        ations personnel coordinate for JTAC                 Tracking FA Replacement Parts. The
JFB discusses assets requested and needed      training on ASRs and CAS before de-                brigade FEC current operations section
for upcoming continuous operations             ploying. All requests are not the same,            tracks the status of all fire support assets
(CONOP). This includes lethal assets,          and Soldiers must understand the dif-              within the AOR. One issue that caused
such aircraft on ASRs and fire support         ferences.                                          confusion was the misperception that
assets, and nonlethal assets, such as IO.        Lack of Understanding of Electronic              the current operations section tracks the
  The current operations officer or NCO        Warfare (EW) Capabilities. The new                 progress of replacement parts for FA
reviews the ASRs that are 72 hours out         technologies that have emerged to coun-            assets.
and confirms that the brigade and division     ter the threat of improvised explosive               Tracking parts is an S4 function, not
are tracking the same requests. In addi-       devices (IEDs) have caused units to                a fires function. The current operations
tion to the JFB, the current operations        field new systems to protect themselves.           section resolved this issue by keeping
officer also may produce strike requests       Commanders must understand the ca-                 the staff functional lines clear.
and help the brigade fire support officer      pabilities and limitations of these new              The initial performance of the brigade
(FSO) or the effects coordinator (ECO-         EW systems.                                        FEC has been outstanding. The idea of
ORD), as required.                               These EW assets require detailed plan-           having an institution within a BCT with
  The fire support operations NCO for the      ning to achieve maximum effects. For               the ability to affect the battlespace with
current operations section is, arguably,       example, if units must delay movement for          lethal and nonlethal assets to gain specific
the most important Soldier in the section.     some reason, then they should adjust the           effects has proven to be very effective.
His responsibilities include managing the      EW plan to have maximum coverage.                  But even with these proven abilities,
current operations desk as well as taking        Current operations section personnel             there are still areas for improvement
care of all the administrative functions       must understand the use of EW aircraft             in the FEC. With problems identified
of the section.                                and help educate their supported TFs.              and improvements made, the following
  Fire support NCOs manage the fire              ACMR Processing. A problem that the              months of operations within OEF VII will
support coordinating measures (FSCMs)          brigade FEC has had with processing                continue to be a success in the Global
for the entire regional command, which         ACMRs is the type of coordinates used              War on Terrorism.
includes seven TFs. They perform qual-         by aviation. Too many requests have
ity control of ASRs for both CAS and           had incorrect latitude and longitude
ACMRs. They also ensure all section            coordinates.                                       Captain	Terrence	A.	Adams	is	the	Brigade	
Soldiers stay current on the training            Each ACMR requires three types of lo-            Fire	Control	Officer	(FCO)	for	the	3rd	Bri-
needed while deployed, including weap-         cation data for processing. The first is the       gade	 Combat	 Team	 (BCT),	 TF	 Spartans,	
                                                                                                  10th	Mountain	Division,	currently	deployed	
ons qualifications and preventive main-        military grid reference system (MGRS).
                                                                                                  to	 Afghanistan	 for	 Operation	 Enduring	
tenance checks and services (PMCS) of          The second type is the universal trans-
                                                                                                  Freedom	VII.	This	article	is	based	on	the	
all assigned equipment.                        verse mercator (UTM) system. The third             experiences	of	the	3rd	BCT	Fires	and	Ef-
  The Soldiers of the brigade FEC’s cur-       is latitude and longitude information.             fect	Cell’s	Current	Operations	Section	for	
rent operations section collect the ASRs         A common trend among the TFs is                  the	first	120	days	of	operations.	Captain	
from the various TFs. They also manage         to use incorrect latitude and longitude            Adams	also	has	been	the	S2	for	4th	Bat-
the brigade advanced FA tactical data sys-     information on their requests. The most            talion,	25th	Field	Artillery	Regiment	(4-25	
tems (AFATDS) box and all the FSCMs            common error is a format of hours, min-            FAR),	 also	 in	 the	 10th	 Division.	 At	 Fort	
for the area of operations (AO).               utes and seconds with seconds incorrectly          Bragg,	North	Carolina,	he	was	a	Fire	Sup-
  Improving Operations in the FEC’s            rounded off.                                       port	 Officer	 (FSO)	 for	 the	 3-159	 Aviation	
                                                                                                  Regiment	and	Executive	Officer	(XO)	for	
Current Ops Section. While deployed,             The second issue with ACMRs is the
                                                                                                  Headquarters	and	Headquarters	Battery,	
the current operations section ran into        misperception that the FEC processes
                                                                                                  XVIII	Airborne	Corps	Artillery,	and	XO	for	
several challenges.                            the requests. The FEC current opera-               A	 Battery,	 1-377	 FAR	 (Air	 Assault),	 18th	
  ASRs and CAS. These areas are im-            tions section only collects the requests,          Field	Artillery	Brigade.	He	also	served	in	
portant to IBCT operations and some of         performs an initial check of information           B	Battery,	1-377th	FAR	as	a	Fire	Direction	
the most difficult to master. One reason       and then forwards the requests to the              Officer	(FDO).	He	is	a	graduate	of	the	Ma-
they are difficult is the lack of a system     brigade aviation element (BAE). All                rine	Corps	Expeditionary	Warfare	School	
to process air requests.                       ACMRs are processed by the BAE and                 at	Quantico,	Virginia.

                                                                                         July-August 2006   45