Tracking System Working Overtime

The Army's Movement Tracking System, which was designed to enable the logistics community to track and communicate with vehicles on the move, is proving to be one of the main communications devices in the field and has soldiers clamoring for more.

In recent weeks, the system has been used to call a MedEvac helicopter into Iraq to aid a wounded soldier, and "another time, [base commanders] saw where a unit was going and knew the enemy was there, and they were rerouted," retired Army Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Broyles, the system's program management office representative from Fort Lee, Va., told the Interceptor during a March 30 interview at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

The system consists of a mobile unit mounted on a vehicle and a control station that monitors the vehicle's location. The components use the same basic communications software and hardware, including a rugged laptop computer loaded with digital maps and Global Positioning System technology.

Developed by Comtech Mobile Datacom Corp., the system has been installed on more than 200 vehicles in southwest Asia so far, and there are plans to equip another 1,600 regardless of how long the war in Iraq lasts, Broyles said.

"It's 'blue force' tracking for logistics units, not against the enemy," said Maj. Forrest Burke, chief of logistics information management for the Coalition Forces Land Component Command at Camp Arifjan. "An operator in a vehicle has GPS and [digital] maps and can see where his buddies are."

Wounded Soldier Data in Real Time

A soldier is wounded on the battlefields of Iraq, removed from danger and transported back to a Defense Department medical facility in Kuwait.

Normally, that soldier's commander would wait hours or even days to get an update on his or her status, but the Patient Accounting and Reporting Real-Time Tracking System (PARRTS) delivers information almost immediately, said Army Lt. Col. Eric Radford, medical regulating officer for the 3rd Medical Command, Atlanta.

"It provides the commander with a real-time response to get reports about soldiers taken out of the theater," Radford said during an April 3 phone interview from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

Army hospital administrators and staff use the Web-based PARRTS to enter clinical data on wounded personnel and then quickly respond to requests for information from commanders in the field. Because the system deals with confidential patient records, commanders cannot access it directly, but "they contact us and we tap into the system," Radford said.

Bandwidth constraints are the biggest challenge the system faces in southwest Asia because nonsecure lines are quickly being gobbled up as the war progresses, said Radford, 48, a reservist from Aiken, S.C.

DOD's Ray Guns?

Rear Adm. Jay Cohen, chief of naval research, told a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee last month that DOD is just three years away from having "weapons-grade lethality" with electronic weapons. Such weapons could include lasers or an electrocution device similar to a stun gun. They would deliver a concentrated form of energy to the intended target and destroy it instantly.

James Engle, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology and engineering, mentioned a weapons program called the Vehicle-Mounted Active Denial System — a directed-energy device that emits a nonlethal, nondamaging beam that heats the skin of a potential enemy who is in close proximity to the system. The resulting temporary pain causes the person to flee. Engle said the system has a range greater than that of small arms.

He offered to test a smaller version on members of the House committee to demonstrate its effectiveness, but no one took him up on the offer.

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