Task Force Phoenix CEMA cell counters unmanned aerial systems

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jason Sweeney,
  • 40th Combat Aviation Brigade

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – Coalition forces are countering adversary unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in the U.S. Central Command area of operations with a rapidly evolving set of tools and training.

Task Force Phoenix — a combat aviation brigade responsible for full-spectrum aviation operations for Operation Spartan Shield (OSS) and Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) — has a dedicated Cyberspace Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) cell that is assisting in the counter-UAS (C-UAS) fight.

The Task Force Phoenix CEMA cell is based at Camp Buehring and includes Florida National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Douglas Montgomery, Illinois National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Anthony Meneely, California National Guard Sgt. Ismael Pulido and Pennsylvania National Guard Maj. Jeremy Tennent.

In response to recent UAS attacks on coalition bases in Iraq and Syria, the Task Force Phoenix CEMA cell performed battlefield assessments and identified gaps in C-UAS training. The team then reached out to the Yuma Counter-UAS Training Academy and U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) to get the latest C-UAS training packages used stateside.

"After reviewing that information, we identified that there was a huge training gap in the information due to the unique operating environment and the different theater-provided equipment throughout our area of responsibility," Montgomery said. "Utilizing the curriculum that was provided, reaching out to the manufacturers to get information and reengaging with operators up north, our team was able to develop a complete training package that encompasses the 'crawl, walk, run' learning matrix.

"Our team developed material and acquired equipment so that the learning progressed from PowerPoint presentation (crawl), to the SPECTRE virtual reality simulation training (walk), finishing up with hands-on, ground-based and handheld systems (run)," he said. "Our team truly feels this course is the most comprehensive, real-time and relevant training platform for C-UAS theater operators, planners and NCOIC/OIC's (noncommissioned officers-in-charge/officers-in-charge)."

On the heels of their recent success teaching an Electronic Warfare Operations/Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Warfare system course at Camp Buehring, the CEMA cell teamed up again with the U.S. Army Central Command Readiness Training Center (ARTC) to put together the comprehensive course that will be taught regularly to C-UAS operators in theater. The five-day C-UAS course is intended to give participants a better understanding of the emerging UAS threat and training on the systems that defeat that threat.

"ARTC helped facilitate the training audience and provided a platform for the training," said Capt. Jesse Rodeheaver, officer-in-charge for the ARCENT Readiness Training Center. "The CEMA team has brought subject-matter expertise on counter-UAS and electronic warfare. They have a unique perspective in that they've been doing site assessments throughout the area of responsibility, looking at our counter-UAS operations and bringing that back to a training environment. That level of expertise and firsthand knowledge has been invaluable."

The CEMA cell's first C-UAS class ran Oct. 4-8 at Camp Buehring. Sixteen Army and Air Force personnel from both active and reserve components attended. The class consisted of a mix of intelligence, security, force protection and other personnel with a primary role in C-UAS.

An up-to-date intelligence briefing set the stage for the learning objectives. A Raytheon training team briefed participants on the operations of the handheld C-UAS Drone Defender V2 system. The CEMA team gave participants hands-on training with the NINJA and EnforceAir ground-based C-UAS systems. Participants used a SPECTRE Virtual Reality Trainer that allowed them to practice visual aircraft recognition and engage in defeating UAS attacks with handheld/ground-based jammers and laser systems in a virtual reality environment.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Adam Wilson, with the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, said the class was very informative. "It's good knowledge to bring back to my unit and share with other counter-UAS operators."

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric Stewart, an intelligence chief warrant officer with the 29th Infantry Division who analyzes adversary tactics, techniques and procedures, said the class allowed him to see how Army and Air Force C-UAS systems and procedures work.

"Knowledge is power," Stewart said. "The more we know what our operators are seeing, the better we can help keep our Soldiers protected. The environment is evolving. There is a potential for increased UAS engagements."

Meneely said the CEMA team's first C-UAS class went well and provided a good baseline for future classes.

"The course will continue to evolve due to technological advances in the field," Meneely said.

The next C-UAS class will be held at Camp Buehring Nov. 8.