Accident and alertness add to force protection
While Staff Sgt. Alqua Stephenson was conducting her normal inspection of the electronic warfare systems on several vehicles and taking notes in her notebook, she saw something was different.
“What the heck is this [antenna] doing here?” thought the electronic warfare non-commissioned officer in charge at 702nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. “How did this antenna get up here?”
What Stephenson saw stood out like a sore thumb to her trained eye. The antenna, used to jam the signals of remote-detonated improvised explosive devices, wasn’t mounted in its usual place.
She spoke with Sgt. Erika Collins, a logistic specialist from the unit, who explained that her MaxxPro Plus Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle had been turned in to the repair shop earlier in the day to repair a mounting bracket holding an antenna in place. The bracket had been damaged by overhanging trees while on a convoy escort mission the night before.
Curious to find out how this would affect the antenna’s signal jamming capabilities, Stephenson and fellow Soldiers in the battalion’s EW section ran a few tests and discovered that the change in location provided the vehicle with better coverage than the original configuration.
Stephenson, a Las Vegas native, said that after seeing the improved signal coverage, she decided to explore the possibilities of using this configuration on every MaxxPro Plus in her unit.
She called the Warlock Shop, which handles the repair of the specialized equipment, to inquire about the modification and to inform them on the drastic improvement of the jamming coverage. She was informed by a staff member that the antenna was only moved due to the fact that the original location was rendered unusable from the tree damage.
In order to get this configuration approved for other vehicles, they would need the “ok” from Joint CREW Composite Squadron, the organization who maintains overall authority and standardization for the counter-IED systems in Iraq.
The 702nd BSB EW section created a presentation that would compare the capabilities of this new configuration versus the standard currently in place on the MaxxPro Plus.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joel Azpeitia, the EW officer in charge for the brigade, reviewed the presentation and was once again impressed with the battalion’s EW section.
“That section is so proactive and will always go the extra mile to ensure the safety of Soldiers,” said the Tampa native. “They are always making some corrections to improve many of the systems.”
With his support, the proposal was sent to JCCS at United States Forces – Iraq. The JCCS wanted to verify the results of the testing conducted by Stephenson and her section, so they put the modified vehicle through a series of tests over three days.
On the third day, the 702nd Soldiers were notified of the good news; their configuration would be the new standard for mounting the antenna on the MaxxPro Plus for USF-I.
Collins said that even though this whole thing started as a mistake, it is a great feeling to somehow be a part of it.
“We were so happy to hear the news,” said Sgt. Aquime Duclairjeune a CREW noncommissioned officer from Brooklyn, N.Y. “When they asked us what we wanted the configuration to be named, the first [name] that came to my mind was Staff Sgt. Christopher Worrell.”
The antennae’s configuration was named GR-7 or Ghostrider 7, the call signal of the late Worrell, a 702nd transportation non-commissioned officer, who died in April 2010 in a non-combat related incident.
As the unit sets itself to redeploy in the coming months, the EW team has kept their focus on the task at hand, but will be departing Iraq with the knowledge that because of their curiosity, hard work and a minor run-in with a tree, lives could potentially be saved.
“If having this boost in coverage saves one life,” said Stephenson, “then it is worth the time and the effort.”
Story by Spc. Luisito Brooks
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