A SPECIAL UNIT OF SAILORS HITS THE GROUND
TO TAKE ON ONE OF THE TOUGHEST TASKS IN IRAQ
By TOM PHILPOTT, Special Correspondent
‘Our Efforts Saved Lives’
BAGHDAD — Lt. Scott “Sherm”
Oliver, an electronic countermeasures officer on Navy EA-6B Prowler
jets, was near the end a second carrier deployment supporting troops
in Iraq in 2005 when a welcomed set
of orders arrived.
For the next 30 months, Oliver
learned, he would be a flight instructor in Pensacola, Fla. There, at last,
he would get to spend a stretch of
home-in-the-evening quality time
with his wife, who was expecting their first child.
Eight months into that tour, however, Oliver got an
unexpected new set of orders for a third wartime deployment. This time he would be serving on the ground, in
Baghdad no less. Understandably, he was upset.
He had been in the Persian Gulf at “the beginning of
the war in 2003. I was back in ’04-’05. And now back
again in ’06? That’s a lot of time away,” said Oliver.
“And shore duty is when you’re supposed to be able to
catch your breath and be home with your family.”
This January, after eight months on the ground in
Baghdad, Oliver was packing for home, and proud of
what he and a special Navy team of electronic warfare
experts had accomplished.
“Our efforts have saved lives,” Oliver said. “I know
that because I’ve had guys come back and tell me
about scenarios where they actually found [roadside
bombs before detonation] and they know the CREW
CREW is an acronym for Counter Radio-controlled
IED Electronic Warfare systems. Oliver and 60 or so
officers from the Prowler community had been pulled
Prowler crews and staff find ways to counter insurgents’ roadside bombs.
■ Embedded with Army units, Navy specialists block signals that
would trigger detonations as convoys pass.
■ Navy technicians control the electromagnetic spectrum.
■ The goal: A Navy CREW for every convoy.
from their nonoperational jobs to lead a special 290-
member naval ground force formed into Joint CREW
Composite Squadron-One (JCCS- 1).
The squadron is responsible for installing and maintaining CREW systems on U.S. ground convoys
throughout Iraq. The effort is an initiative of Adm.
Mike Mullen, the chief of naval operations.
Early in 2006, Mullen had advised Army Gen.
George Casey, then-commander of multinational forces
in Iraq, that naval countermeasure skills could be effective against attacks on convoys from electronically triggered improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
JCCS- 1 set up its headquarters at Camp Victory in
Baghdad last May, becoming a subordinate command
to the Army’s 79th Ordnance Battalion. But most of the
squadron’s members spread out across Iraq to become
embedded with U.S. ground forces at every level.
“The Army didn’t have any EW (electronic warfare)
experience, so that’s how we got here,” said the 30-
year-old Oliver. “The JCCS- 1 guys, the electronic warfare officers, got distributed among all battalions,
brigades and divisions here in Iraq.”
Sailors patrol through the woods during an improvised explosive device awareness exercise as part of the Navy’s
Individual Augmentee Combat Training course at Fort Jackson, S.C. The two-week course is taught by Army drill sergeants and designed to provide sailors with basic combat skills training before they are deployed, some as part of the
special naval ground force Joint CREW Composite Squadron-One.