Today we had an all day training on how to operate a "Blue Force Trackers" (BFT) also know as Force Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2). This might be the most amazing piece of battlefield technology ever developed when working properly. In a nutshell, all the friendly forces (which are blue symbols on the screen) have a computer system made up of a transceiver, touch-screen and key board, CPU, Hard drive and a GPS receiver. What it does is share the location, movement, action, and status of our entire force with everyone else and the commanders. That means, by looking at one large screen in the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) the commander can see, in real time, the location of all his units. In addition, folks over at the Pentagon can also watch a battle take place in real time.
But it doesn't just track friendly forces. It also helps track the enemy. If someone sees enemy forces, all they have to do is touch the screen on the map location where the enemy was seen and give their description. Then, that enemy position is loaded onto the entire system and becomes available to all our forces (Ground, Air and Sea).
Additionally, messages can be sent over this system including specific operations orders, status reports, Medical Evacuation, and my favorite, instant messaging. The biggest improvement to this system when compared to the old system is distance. Previously we would still use a normal radio that worked on an FM radio signal which means line of sight. Well when you get to an area that has lots of mountains, line of sight is not always the best way to go. This system instead uses satellites in orbit to communicate. That's sweet.
While the Army and the Military as a whole has lots of issues (and believe me... it does!), it is really cool to see technology like this that continues to help us maintain our status as the worlds greatest military.
Now, how does this help me as a Chaplain. I will be a Chaplain for at least 4 different companies. Each of these companies can be at a different FOBs (Forward Operating Base) or en-route to different bases. When I turn on my BFT I can get the real time location of all my units and check on their status reports. I can also send them a message and let them know when I will be at their location to provide Religious Support. It is going to be a really great tool. Plus, it combines 3 things that I love: 1) maps, 2) cool technology, 3) things I can touch.
It was a great day of training! Hope there are more like it coming.