Fort Bliss Regional Support & Training Center
The two-channel PRC-155 Manpack, PRC-154A Rifleman radios, and the Sidewinder vehicle mount for the PRC-154A give soldiers, in a small form factor, the ability to communicate with everyone on the battlefield. Soldiers and commanders can stay connected whether they are members of the same platoon or a platoon operating on the other side of a mountain and out of normal radio range. With the radios’ networking capability, commanders can “see” what’s happening to the soldiers under their command or events taking place across the entire battlefield. They are very powerful tools providing real-time situational awareness to commanders and soldiers.
My job here at Fort Bliss is to prepare soldiers and commanders to use these radios during the Network Integration Exercises. Right now, we’re getting ready for NIE 13.2.
NIE 13.2 kicks off in May and during the runup to the first exercise missions, we’ll have trained hundreds of soldiers to use the PRC-155, PRC-154A, and the Sidewinder. This is hands-on training where we teach them not only to use the radios, but how to program them, maintain them, and how to troubleshoot problems in the field.
This is a fresh approach to training because we’re seeing a new generation of soldiers who are used to having a smartphone or tablet computer. They learn by experimenting and seeing what the device can do. So after a few PowerPoint slides, we give them a radio and they figure it out faster and are more proficient in much less time than the old classroom style of training.
The great thing about being here at Ft. Bliss preparing for NIE is seeing all the equipment being used by real soldiers in real-life combat and mission scenarios. With thousands of soldiers and hundreds of vehicles operating across 7,000 square miles of desert, we can test and train in ways you could never do in a lab.
The PRC-155 Manpack radio has two channels, which basically means it’s two radios in one box. It has the ability to seamlessly communicate from one channel to the other even if the communication networks on the two channels are using different frequencies or waveforms. The PRC-155 Manpack radio will connect a unit operating on a Soldier Radio Waveform, or SRW network, to a unit operating on a SINCGARS, SATCOM, or other SRW network using a different radio frequency. This powerful mode is called “Route/Retrans” and allows soldiers and commanders to communicate on the battlefield in ways never available to them before.
For the upcoming 13.2 NIE, one of the most exciting exercise scenarios uses the PRC-155 Manpack Route/Retrans mode. The scenario called “Roamer Net” creates and aerial tier for the tactical communications network. The scenario allows aircraft to “Roam” over the battlefield while providing voice and other communications and fire support for units operating on different networks. In the past, this took two separate radios and an external router. Now this is accomplished more efficiently using one HMS PRC-155 Manpack.
There will be more than 500 PRC-155 Manpack, PRC-154A Nett Warrior radios, and Sidewinders used in NIE 13.2. I am really looking forward seeing soldiers talk and communicate in ways they are used to when they have their smartphones at home. It is a new day for the soldier, and they’ll be a lot safer because of these radios and all the capabilities they provide.