Current operations section of the modular brigade FEC in Afghanistan.
One of the IBCT's main components is the fires and effects cell (FEC), which recently was renamed the brigade fire support cell (FSC). The FEC is responsible for coordinating not only lethal fires, such as artillery, but also nonlethal effects. These nonlethal effects include information operations (10), psychological operations (PSYOP), public affairs (PA) and civil-military operations (CMO).
There is little doubt that the FEC has enhanced the IBCT's capabilities. With the advent of the FEC came the requirement for the current operations section, which only is stood up during deployments. The responsibilities and manning of the current operations section is diverse and often complex. But even with the new manning and technology, the current ops section faces challenges.
This article discusses the FEC current operations section operations and challenges in the 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division, while deployed to Afghanistan.
Current Operations Section Responsibilities and Manning. The current operations section includes a captain, two sergeants first class, four Soldiers and Air Force joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs). It is responsible for coordinating, gathering and managing the task forces' (TFs') lethal fires assets to ensure mission success and the highest level of force protection. Its other responsibilities include quality control of airspace control measure requests (ACMRs) for restricted operating zones (ROZs), information management operations and assistance for TFs with troops-in-contact. Tracking all fire support assets in country from M198s down to 60-mm mortars is an additional duty.
The current operations section also tracks target acquisition assets in the TF's area of responsibility (AOR). These assets range from Q-36 and Q-37 Fire-finder radars to the unattended transient acoustic measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) system, called UTAMS.
Finally, one of the most important jobs the current operations section performs is processing and quality control of air support requests (ASRs) for close air support (CAS). This increases the level of force protection for all TFs in the AOR and allows units greater flexibility of movement.
Supervising the clearance of fires for the TFs is another important function of the brigade FEC current operations section. The requesting battalion's fire direction center (FDC) and tactical operations center (TOC) are responsible for clearing fires in their battlespace. The brigade helps clear fires only when the battalion cannot reach an agency required to clear the fires. These are agencies such as a civilian air agency, military fixed- or rotary-wing, or other Coalition forces.
The current operations section is not permanently manned--it only forms when the brigade deploys. When the brigade is in garrison and not performing its wartime functions, the members of the current operations section are part of the lethal and nonlethal fires sections within the FEC.
According to the modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE), the captain or officer-in-charge (OIC) of the current operations section is the brigade fire control officer (FCO). When the section is stood up, this officer's main responsibility is to supervise the current operations personnel. He ensures that all brigade TFs have the fire support assets they need to accomplish their missions. This means ensuring that all ASRs are prioritized and processed.
In addition to daily battle-tracking responsibilities, the OIC of the current operations section also attends the division's daily joint fires board (JFB) meetings via information workspace. The JFB discusses assets requested and needed for upcoming continuous operations (CONOP). This includes lethal assets, such aircraft on ASRs and fire support assets, and nonlethal assets, such as IO.
The current operations officer or NCO reviews the ASRs that are 72 hours out and confirms that the brigade and division are tracking the same requests. In addition to the JFB, the current operations officer also may produce strike requests and help the brigade fire support officer (FSO) or the effects coordinator (ECO-ORD), as required.
The fire support operations NCO for the current operations section is, arguably, the most important Soldier in the section. His responsibilities include managing the current operations desk as well as taking care of all the administrative functions of the section.
Fire support NCOs manage the fire support coordinating measures (FSCMs) for the entire regional command, which includes seven TFs. They perform quality control of ASRs for both CAS and ACMRs. They also ensure all section Soldiers stay current on the training needed while deployed, including weapons qualifications and preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) of all assigned equipment.
The Soldiers of the brigade FEC's current operations section collect the ASRs from the various TFs. They also manage the brigade advanced FA tactical data systems (AFATDS) box and all the FSCMs for the area of operations (AO).
Improving Operations in the FEC's Current Ops Section. While deployed, the current operations section ran into several challenges.
ASRs and CAS. These areas are important to IBCT operations and some of the most difficult to master. One reason they are difficult is the lack of a system to process air requests.
The system we finally developed consolidated all requests for a specific date and let one shift handle them. This system worked well and ensured that all requests had been inspected for mistakes by two sets of eyes before they were forwarded to division for processing.
Another problem that quickly presented itself was Soldiers' and leaders' lack of formal training in completing and inspecting ASRs. Our Air Force counterparts solved this problem by giving FEC personnel classes on what to look for and helping with quality control of all ASRs.
I strongly recommend that current operations personnel coordinate for JTAC training on ASRs and CAS before deploying. All requests are not the same, and Soldiers must understand the differences.
Lack of Understanding of Electronic Warfare (EW) Capabilities. The new technologies that have emerged to counter the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have caused units to field new systems to protect themselves. Commanders must understand the capabilities and limitations of these new EW systems.
These EW assets require detailed planning to achieve maximum effects. For example, if units must delay movement for some reason, then they should adjust the EW plan to have maximum coverage.
Current operations section personnel must understand the use of EW aircraft and help educate their supported TFs.
ACMR Processing. A problem that the brigade FEC has had with processing ACMRs is the type of coordinates used by aviation. Too many requests have had incorrect latitude and longitude coordinates.
Each ACMR requires three types of location data for processing. The first is the military grid reference system (MGRS). The second type is the universal transverse mercator (UTM) system. The third is latitude and longitude information.
A common trend among the TFs is to use incorrect latitude and longitude information on their requests. The most common error is a format of hours, minutes and seconds with seconds incorrectly rounded off.
The second issue with ACMRs is the misperception that the FEC processes the requests. The FEC current operations section only collects the requests, performs an initial check of information and then forwards the requests to the brigade aviation element (BAE). All ACMRs are processed by the BAE and then forwarded to the battlefield coordination detachment (BCD).
Just because a request has been submitted to the brigade FEC doesn't mean the ACM is, or will be, approved and established. TFs have made the mistake of submitting requests and then immediately assuming the ACMs in AFATDS have been established.
This initially proved to be a challenge, but after a few cases of ACMs being established in the AFATDS by the TFs but then cancelled by the brigade FEC, the problem resolved itself and no longer was an issue.
Tracking FA Replacement Parts. The brigade FEC current operations section tracks the status of all fire support assets within the AOR. One issue that caused confusion was the misperception that the current operations section tracks the progress of replacement parts for FA assets.
Tracking parts is an S4 function, not a fires function. The current operations section resolved this issue by keeping the staff functional lines clear.
The initial performance of the brigade FEC has been outstanding. The idea of having an institution within a BCT with the ability to affect the battlespace with lethal and nonlethal assets to gain specific effects has proven to be very effective. But even with these proven abilities, there are still areas for improvement in the FEC. With problems identified and improvements made, the following months of operations within OEFVII will continue to be a success in the Global War on Terrorism.
Captain Terrence A. Adams is the Brigade Fire Control Officer (FCO) for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), TF Spartans, 10th Mountain Division, currently deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom VII. This article is based on the experiences of the 3rd BCT Fires and Effect Cell's Current Operations Section for the first 120 days of operations. Captain Adams also has been the S2 for 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment (4-25 FAR), also in the 10th Division. At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he was a Fire Support Officer (FSO) for the 3-159 Aviation Regiment and Executive Officer (XO) for Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery, and XO for A Battery, 1-377 FAR (Air Assault), 18th Field Artillery Brigade. He also served in B Battery, 1-377th FAR as a Fire Direction Officer (FDO). He is a graduate of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare School at Quantico, Virginia.
By Captain Terrence A. Adams
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|Title Annotation:||fires and effects cell|
|Author:||Adams, Terrence A.|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2006|
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