COURTESY OF LT. SCOTT OLIVER
Lt. Scott Oliver, from the Navy’s Joint CREW Composite Squadron-One, instructs a group of Army soldiers on electronic
countermeasures equipment in Iraq. The squadron is responsible for Counter Radio-controlled IED Electronic Warfare
(CREW) systems used by U.S. convoys and ground force units throughout Iraq.
The concept of embedding Navy personnel in Army
units in wartime must be viewed as unique, Oliver said.
“It’s every unit down to the battalion level. It’s been
quite a huge undertaking. It’s been good for the Army
and I think it’s also been good for the Navy officers and
enlisted,” he said.
Ground battalions have a Navy O- 3, like Oliver,
assigned to oversee their electronic warfare moves
“Then at brigade level you have an O- 4 and at division level you have two O-5s,” said Oliver.
Most of JCCS- 1 is made up of officers. But the
enlisted sailors in the squadron are critical. They are
the technicians responsible for installing CREW systems and ensuring proper maintenance.
Insurgents and terrorists began using IEDs in Iraq
during the summer of 2003 after it appeared U.S.
forces were settling in for a long occupation. As early
press reports documented, the bomb-makers shifted
over time from detonating their IEDs by command
wires or pressure plates, which are more difficult to
place, to rigging them with various signal devices, such
as cell phones and garage door openers.
During the Cold War, the Army had electronic countermeasure skills but abandoned such training by 1990.
By the time the JCCS- 1 began operations last spring,
some CREW systems already had been installed on
Army vehicles. But soldiers reported that the gear was
interfering with routine radio communication signals.
“They had had very little understanding of how it
worked and little understanding about the electromagnetic spectrum. There’s a lot of deconfliction problems,” said Oliver. “When we got over here, nobody
could talk to each other because pretty much nobody
had carefully looked at the spectrum and looked at the
threat and figured out we need to jam these specific
threats and not jam the communications.”
Jamming, of course, is what electronic countermeasure officers do aboard Prowlers and they have to do it
without jamming their own gear.
“One huge success we brought to the Army,” said
Oliver, “is we enabled them to talk without jamming
themselves. And we did that because we were able to
specify exactly what we’re jamming.”
Oliver was restricted in what he could reveal about
the capabilities of CREW systems whose antenna can
be seen atop most U.S. combat vehicles.
“All I can say is, we’re focusing electronic warfare
on the radio-controlled IED threat,” he said.
Installing CREW on every military vehicle in Iraq is