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1-37 FA Soldiers first on JBLM to certify on EQ-36 radar system

Soldiers put new radar through its paces

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The radar truck moved into position on top of an observation point overlooking sparse ground that has been pock marked with impacts from artillery shells. A team of Soldiers poured out of the vehicle to set up their equipment.

The 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment Soldiers under 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, began swinging hammers, emplacing grounding stakes into the packed gravel around the radar. They leveled the radar, grounded the generator and had the system fully functional in less than five minutes. The radar and crew are ready to track incoming mortar and artillery rounds so that a counterbattery can return fire.

The 3rd Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery Soldiers became the first certified operators of EQ-36 Counterfire Target Acquisition Radar on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Jan. 26.

The EQ-36 radar system is an enhanced version of an older counterfire radar system. The radar detects and tracks the location of enemy indirect fire, allowing friendly forces to accurately return fire. The radar also tracks friendly fire and gives feedback on the accuracy of artillery strikes.

The enhanced radar system has several distinct advantages over the older counterbattery system. The new system has a 360-degree tracking ability, allowing it to monitor incoming fire from all directions where the older version only had 90-degree capability, Section Chief Sgt. Cory Postma said. "If you are on a (forward operating base) downrange you would need fewer systems because the new one can provide more coverage than the older system."

The 360-degree tracking ability isn't the radar's only improvement.

"This system is fast and agile," said Spc. Alexander Clements, target acquisition team. "It will save us at least 10 minutes in set up time."

When the unit is on the move in a war zone, reaction time is vital as artillery shells rain down.

"It's all about time; the clock is always ticking," Clements said. "We are here to save lives, to get this system up and running and get the guns counterfiring."

With the added benefits of the new EQ-36 and the changes to it, the radar operator's job is to know his system and be able to use it quickly and effectively, exactly what the platoon did this day, Postma said.

The platoon from HHB, 1-37 FA was the first on JBLM to conduct displaced equipment training for the EQ-36 radar. This training was incorporated into a field training exercise along with a live-fire exercise. These exercises allowed the Soldiers to apply their classroom training and reinforce both the individual and collective tasks in a tactical environment, HHB Commander Capt. Sean Whelan said.

Postma, the section chief, said he appreciates the motivation and skill of his section, which its singular distinction on the EQ-36 radar system.

"We are a certified team," said Clements. "We know everything from one end to the other, up and down. We know everything mechanical and electronic on this radar."

The EQ-36 isn't on the battery's equipment list yet. The training came as a precursor for deployment to Afghanistan, where it is currently used. When the team arrives overseas and takes over one of the target acquisition radars, its members will already have a working knowledge of the equipment.

"It's nice to know that we are setting the bar for the other platoons on post," team member Pvt. Zachary Hilleary said.

The team's knowledge gained in the certification process makes its members subject-matter experts in their field.


Sgt. Austan R. Owen

From left, Pvt. Jared Beier, Pvt. Zachary Hilleary and Spc. Alexander Clements, radar section, HHB, 1-37 FA, ground the generator that powers the new EQ-36 Target Acquisition Radar Jan. 26. The radar section is the first on JBLM to complete certification on the new system.

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