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NEWS | Sept. 16, 2010

South Dakota Guardsmen plan new security measure for Afghanistan elections

By Capt. Anthony Deiss, Task Force Rushmore Public Affairs

CAMP PHOEINX, Afghanistan - While the world will be watching Afghanistan's parliamentary elections on Saturday, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials will be keeping an eye on the capital with the help of a new security measure; the Persistent Surveillance System (PSS), which took flight this week at Camp Julien in south Kabul.

The PSS, a floating aerostat (or blimp), has high-tech camera equipment which will provide an extra level of surveillance capability for security operations around the city.

“The system has the ability to provide instant situational awareness for security forces throughout Kabul,” said Maj. Todd Bartunek, director of Plans, Training and Mobilization for Task Force Rushmore, Kabul Base Cluster Installation Command. “The elections are just around the corner and a lot of time and effort has gone into ensuring that polling centers and voters are safe.”

The new PSS is one of two aerostats now in operation in Kabul. Its cameras are able to rotate 360-degees to survey and closely monitor activity throughout the city, and when used with surveillance data from other security systems, also helps security officials better anticipate threats.

“The key is information and what is happening on the ground,” said Bartunek, a member of the 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade of the South Dakota Army National Guard. “Kabul is a large, crowded city, and these systems at Camp Bala Hissar and Camp Julien are a force multiplier to help ANSF detect threats.”

Suspended by a helium-filled balloon tethered hundreds of feet in the air, the aerostat provides high-resolution imagery and video and can detect possible enemy activities using its high-definition, infrared and thermal imaging technology.

Bartunek said the ability to have instant eyes on an incident or developing situation will provide the ANSF and ISAF with the ability to respond quickly.

“The quality of the video, along with the zoom capability, provides a great tool that allows ISAF the ability to see the whole city and communicate with the ANSF on potential hotspots should they arise,” he said. “This kind of real-time video is priceless and can be used in numerous ways to provide security for the elections.”