COURTESY OF LT. SCOTT OLIVER
From left to right, VT-86 flight instructors Lt. Jonathan “Finch” Welsh, Lt. Scott “Sherm” Oliver, Lt. Justin “Griff” Griffin,
Lt. Scott “Jethro” Whelpley and Lt. Melissa “Seabass” Stephens during training in Kuwait prior to joining Joint CREW
Composite Squadron-One in Iraq as Individual Augmentees.
roadside bombs over many years in response to the
threat from the Irish Republican Army.
Members of the JCCS could see evidence of their
success reflected in a change of technique by bomb-makers, who were returning to some old ways.
“We have seen a rise in more simplified ways of
attacking us and that would be the command wire and
the pressure-plate type of devices,” Oliver said. That
shift, he said, “has a direct relationship to our success
in what we’ve done.”
As the first JCCS squadron was being relieved, the
Navy was scrambling to find sufficient numbers of EW
officers it could send. Oliver said some of his squadron
colleagues were being extended in Iraq to ensure that
the 21,500 troops being surged into Baghdad, under
President Bush’s new Iraq strategy, received the CREW
protection on vehicles that they would need.
The Army, meanwhile, is restoring its EW skills with
a new command going up in Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Navy
EW personnel expect to be involved in the training.
When ordered to Iraq to become a “sandbox sailor,”
Oliver said he had no idea what to expect. Looking
back, “it’s definitely been a great experience. I’ve
learned a ton, working with the Army and Air Force
and a Navy [explosive ordnance disposal] unit.”
A typical work week, he said, was seven 12-hour days.
“But it is important work and I don’t think I’ve
heard anyone complain once they’ve’ gotten over here
and involved,” he said. “Everybody here realizes we are
saving lives with what we are doing.”
IEDs continue to kill Americans. In December, 74
U.S. service members lost their lives to IEDs, the highest monthly toll since the war began. Joint Chiefs
Chairman Gen. Peter Pace told the Senate Armed
Services Committee in February that insurgents have
doubled the number of IEDs planted over the past year
and are using more deadly “explosively formed projectiles” provided by Iran. The result is a “sustained level”
of casualties despite more effective countermeasures,
including jamming efforts.
Neutralizing electronic triggers, admittedly, is just
one part of the IED challenge. The Department of
Defense intends to spend $10.4 billion on the IED
threat in fiscal 2008 alone. U.S. Central Command has
a task force in theater looking for answers. But through
the JCCS, the Navy has contributed. ■