JOINT BASE CAPE COD, Mass. – The 26th Movement Enhancement Brigade (YANKEE) and the 102nd Intelligence Wing, Massachusetts National Guard, showed Maj. Gen. Gary W. Keefe, the adjutant general, new technology to enhance emergency response and battlefield operations.
The first system showcased Oct. 6 was the Lakota camera/video downlink feed to help civilian commanders assess and analyze incidents during National Guard domestic support missions. The Lakota system is authorized as part of the National Guard Counterdrug Program but is available to all Hazard Operations Teams with proper approval.
During Vigilant Guard 19-1, a full-scale civil-military exercise in Massachusetts sponsored by U.S. Northern Command in conjunction with the National Guard Bureau, the 26TH MEB leveraged the Lakota system in a domestic operations collective training event. In doing so, they practiced essential required tasks for mission command functions in both warfighter and domestic operations.
"The Lakota helicopter was used primarily to transport the adjutant general here, but while it was there it was taking video, and the Air Force has a system that allows them to pull in the video and analyze it sort of on the go," said Cpt. John F. Triolo, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear liaison, 26th MEB. "They were able to project that upon a screen in our command post ... and they did the same thing in Vigilant Guard 2019."
The second system demonstrated was the National Guard Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Response Enterprise Information Management System (NG CIMS) – phones and laptops that provide real-time tracking of friendly forces. This system is comparable to the Army's Warfighter Joint Capabilities Release, the updated version of the Blue Force Tracker System, which tracks friendly forces on the battlefield.
The demonstration "featured both of these systems communicating between TAG on the move in the air," said Col. Brett Conaway, domestic operations branch director, Massachusetts National Guard.
NG CIMS uses sensors to allow the Mobile Field Kit (MFK), Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK) and other software packages to provide a better understanding of the situation and to manage the information gathered. These components work together with other systems used by Northern Command and National Guard Bureau.
Both MFK and ATAK deployed to multiple National Special Security Events since 2015, responses to natural disasters like the 2017, 2018 and 2019 hurricane seasons, and numerous national exercises. They provide a real-time graphical picture of tactical operations, location of units, teams, personnel and sensor devices (CBRN/non-CBRN), and integration of sensor data visibility across the system suite.
"Our primary consumer for this is really the CBRN task force based out of Reading (Mass.)," said Triolo. "This allows them to increase the speed with which they can employ their decontamination elements or even more so their search-and-extraction element and see what's happening.
"People can upload pictures to points they've placed on a map as they're making a survey," he said. "They can essentially make their report while they're working.
"Our command and control element can determine what they want to make as their next move, whereas in the past, they have 30 minutes, even an hour of lag time as you're collecting all the information you need and figuring out what you need to do next," Triolo said.
ATAK has been widely adopted as a day-to-day command and control tactical operation management tool for many civilian agencies such as the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard.
Sgt. Maj. Gary Mauk, NG CIMS technical adviser, said the Massachusetts National Guard has been in the lead of the development of the NG CIMS capability since 2011, beginning with the 1st Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Team and recently the Region 1 Homeland Response Force/1 CBRN-TF as pilot teams working with NGB, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division.
The demonstration also endeavored to connect all stations with the Falcon II PRC 150 high frequency radio and FM radio. This radio offers immediate communication capability across all echelons, from 0-10,000 km, with no retransmission or satellite requirement. It can also communicate via computer at 9,600 bits per second.
Falcon II PRC 117 F radios work on FM, UHF public service bands and satellite. This means the units have organic radios for talking to emergency service personnel during an emergency.
Although only a small fraction of these systems were used in the demonstration for Keefe, they illustrated the 26th MEB's capacity to command forces defending the commonwealth and nation.
Maj. Michael P. Noyes, 26th MEB TAC officer in charge, said the technology allows the commander on the battlefield or in domestic emergencies "to communicate over long ranges using voice, data and text capabilities without reliance on existing civilian infrastructure."