By Brandon Pollachek
The mission to defeat one of the enemy’s number one threats—improvised explosive devices (IEDs)—recently received a big boost in terms of the knowledge and capabilities of those assigned to operate and maintain Counter-Radio-Controlled IED Warfare (CREW) devices.
Designed to offer maintainers and operators more realistic training, the new CREW Maintenance University opened its doors to students this spring at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. The course is a five-day, intensive, hands-on program that provides Soldiers, civilians, and contractors who are responsible for CREW systems the opportunity to troubleshoot and actually handle the multiple variations of fielded devices.
The CREW Family of Systems, managed by Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare, and Sensors (PEO IEW&S), provides electronic protection from roadside bombs for vehicles and crew members in mounted, dismounted, and fixed-site operations in forward combat areas during offensive and defensive operations, military operations in urban terrain, rear area logistical support, cantonment area security, and during peacekeeping. Systems are usually maintained by deployed field service representatives (FSRs) and electronic warfare (EW) Soldiers.
“The need for a new training course came out of a requirement from the field based on lessons learned from the FSRs and Soldiers we previously trained,” said Willie Jackson, Training Manager for Product Manager (PM) CREW. “We discovered that following the completion of the previously offered course, the Soldiers and FSRs who deployed had to go through an additional 30 days of training upon arriving in theater because the training we provided wasn’t realistic.”
Before the CREW Maintenance University, students attended a three-day course at Fort Monmouth, NJ, taught strictly through PowerPoint briefings. The current course is 80 percent hands-on instruction, with a lab that features five variations of CREW devices as well as various vehicles where students will install the systems.
The hands-on training includes putting load sets into the system, verifying the firmware, installing the systems on the vehicle, and troubleshooting. “We actually got the recurring areas of deficiency from theater, and we incorporated those into the course,” Jackson noted. “Students will install the system, troubleshoot the system, and retest it to make sure everything checked out.”
Students have an opportunity to install and uninstall CREW devices on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, Abrams tanks, Stryker armored vehicles, and other platforms and train on maintaining fixed-site systems along with the proper procedures for testing devices before leaving the forward operating base.
Student feedback has been extremely positive, especially from those who have attended both the old and new training courses.
“It is completely night and day. Everything was classes and death by PowerPoint, and I don’t remember learning that much,” said Alnaldo Gonzalez, a student attending from the Department of State who previously took the course in 2007 before deploying for the past four years supporting CREW devices. “The hands-on lab is awesome. We can try out a lot of different scenarios, making sure you go to each system and then load the system. Back in 2007, we didn’t touch any systems, and you have to touch something to learn it efficiently to do your job, especially when a Soldier’s life is depending on it.”
Most of the students are FSRs from Tobyhanna Army Depot, PA, or EW students. The program also trains EW instructors from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), as well as the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) CREW Master Gunner Course. CREW Maintenance University is open to all DOD military and federal agencies.
Besides providing a more hands-on experience, the CREW Maintenance University serves as an incubator for more permanent training programs that will be established at TRADOC and within USMC.
“The end goal for CREW Maintenance University is to train the trainer until the Army establishes the military occupational specialty to take over the role of CREW maintenance and CREW operator training within TRADOC,” said Jackson. “Once a training course is established in TRADOC, PM CREW will discontinue the program, possibly in FY12.”
“Everything we do in PM CREW has a dramatic impact on saving Soldiers’ lives. We have the Army’s best acquisition and budget specialists, integrators, logisticians, testers, and engineers who ensure that the best products are provided to the Soldiers,” said LTC Bruce Ryba, Product Manager CREW within the Project Management Office Electronic Warfare. “The impact CREW Maintenance University has had on making sure these systems are maintained properly to save lives is unparalleled. Willie Jackson and his team are producing highly trained maintainers and trainers who will continue to protect our Soldiers every day so that they can come home to their loved ones when their mission is complete.”
- BRANDON POLLACHEK is the Public Affairs Officer for PEO IEW&S, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. He holds a B.S. in political science from Cazenovia College and has more than 10 years’ experience in writing about military systems.