Mobile tracking system debuts during exercise in Bulgaria
NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria — Inside the trailer, things look about the same as they do at Germany’s main training base while soldiers outside practice advancing on enemies.
Analysts glued to computer screens track movements of tanks and soldiers equipped with Global Positioning System receivers and sensors that sound to confirm a direct hit. They listen to radio traffic and communicate with observers on the ground watching for mistakes.
A retired Army veteran in a Hawaiian shirt observes live footage from eight cameras recording the action, while a squadron commander calls to request radio traffic recorded during a friendly-fire incident moments ago.
The only difference is, it’s all happening in the countryside of Bulgaria.
A team from the Combat Maneuver Training Center out of Hohenfels, Germany, this month unveiled a $5 million mobile version of a high-tech system for analyzing training exercises that, until now, has remained grounded in Germany.
The Expeditionary Instrumentation System will play a key role in Army efforts to move training from traditional spots such as Hohenfels to more remote regions in places such as Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, according to Gen. B.B. Bell, the U.S. Army Europe commander who visited the Novo Selo Training Area last week.
The system, contained in four trailers, is the brainchild of Daniel Hoeh, who oversees training support for the 7th Army Training Command with a team of analysts and Raytheon software experts. Hoeh said he took it as a personal challenge when the head of the command complimented the tracking system he used at Hohenfels but offered one criticism.
“You have a great system here,” Hoeh recalled the commander saying. “But it’s not deployable.”
A year and a half later, four expandable trailers filled with about $2.5 million in computer equipment and capable of delivering the same analysis capabilities as the grounded version made their first trip outside Germany to help trainers at the three-week joint exercise Immediate Response 05 currently going on.
One trailer houses thousands of gigabytes of data, storing video footage, radio traffic and GPS coordinates sent by radio signal from heavy equipment and soldiers on the ground. Next door, Hoeh’s team of analysts watches the action and takes notes to help squadron commanders learn from mistakes. Two other trailers offer trainers and troop commanders room to hold briefings and conferences in the comforts of air conditioning, complete with 50-inch plasma television screens and leather chairs.
Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, commander of the 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment that participated in force-on-force training, said the technology improves his ability to train squadron commanders and soldiers. He used an audio recording from Saturday’s exercise to explain to a Bulgarian soldier how to better identify his position in the field during a battle.
“You can tell someone what they did wrong, but when you can show them it makes it so much better,” Davenport said.