With the threat of the improvised explosive device in Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. and coalition forces had to adapt to a new battlefield.
The electronic warfare branch, which was only recently made an official branch in the U.S. Army, answered the call to stem the threat of a major killer of American troops in Iraq.
Staff Sgt. Mathew Williamson, an EW noncommissioned officer from Roseville, Calif., serving with the 1st Infantry Division, said he likes serving in a capacity that does so much for his fellow service members, such as the electronic protection counter radio-controlled electronic warfare systems.
“EW contributes, through our actions, the ability to make a huge impact on the protection of American forces and equipment,” Williamson said. “CREW saves lives.”
Master Sgt. Shawn Harris, the 1st Inf. Div.’s senior EW noncommissioned officer from New York, said he enjoys the challenge that come with being a pioneer in a relatively young branch of the U.S. Army.
“Electronic warfare is the state-of-the-art function that’s coming about now. The Army did not take part in electronic warfare because it was something that we as an army never foresaw that we needed to be aware about because we had the Navy and the Air Force to take care of it,” Harris said.
“Electronic warfare is a very interesting job. It’s a vast and upcoming thing in the Army. This is the future. Electronic warfare is always going to be here; we’re in the cyber world now.”
Most combat troops are familiar with the systems EWO's installed in their vehicles to protect them from radio-controlled IED's, but this form of electronic warfare, electronic countermeasures, is only a part of what EW Soldiers do.
EW Soldiers are also trained in electronic attack functions, using electromagnetic energy and anti-radiation weapons that neutralize enemy personnel and equipment, such as radio jamming.
Another function EW Soldiers can fill is electronic support where they trace signals and frequencies to identify threats and go after the enemy.
Williamson, who deployed as a combat engineer before changing jobs, said he enjoys the challenges that come with his job.
“It is something new and different for the Army. EW is not a new concept; the equipment and technology being employed is,” Williamson said. “This offers the opportunity to help on the ground floor of a new Army program and add your input.”
Article by Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Smith, 1st Infantry Division