Automated security system to go 'on duty' in Iraq -- again|
by Monica Morales
Electronic Systems Center Public Affairs
4/5/2006 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFPN) -- One year after answering a call by the Marine Corps' that met an urgent need, the Force Protection Systems Squadron here is preparing to do it again. It is planning to deploy a Tactical Automated Security System, or TASS, to Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq.
"The Marine Corps came to us saying, 'We want to make this our system of choice for expeditionary electronic security systems,'" said 1st Lt. Ted Boender, tactical systems program manager. With one system already deployed at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, they wanted to install a system at Al Taqaddum, he said.
The intrusion-detection system protects a military installation by using thermal imaging cameras, radars and even mini-unmanned aerial vehicles to detect threats along its perimeter. Information is relayed to a centralized tower and then fed to a computer at the base defense operations center, where operators pinpoint a threat's exact location and decide how to act upon it.
The squadron's initial involvement with the Marines came when Marine officials expressed an urgent warfighter need for the system at Al Asad in 2005. Squadron specialists delivered the contract in less than six weeks and the system itself in less than 90 days, a departure from the sometimes year-long process. Within weeks the system was installed, days ahead of schedule and under cost.
"We pulled out all the stops for them," Lieutenant Boender said. "We expedited the system to them in a very short amount of time."
That, paired with its successes after set up, made it a good contender for a second installation. At Al Asad, success translated into a more secure area, fewer troops on perimeter guard and patrol, a cost savings of $200,000 and peace of mind, the lieutenant said.
"They are very happy with the situational awareness that it provides to the perimeter," he said. "You might sleep better at night knowing that thermal imaging cameras are looking 360 degrees around the base."
In October 2005, the base at Al Asad was taking constant fire from outside the fence. In one instance, the newly installed system detected several individuals approaching the installation's perimeter and a patrol was sent to intercept them. Although the individuals were not caught, Lieutenant Boender said a potential attack on the base was avoided.
"They very well could have set up mortars, rockets or inflicted damage to the base," he said. "Surely, we thwarted some type of planning or possible attack."
John Atkinson, Marine Central Command anti-terrorism and force protection officer, has worked closely with the squadron and said that the TASS has proven beneficial.
"It has provided the Marines increased battlespace management and situational awareness at our bases in Southwest Asia ... The technological innovations provided by the FPSS are the linchpin to our integrated base defense and are essential to our battlespace awareness," he said.
At the end of the day success means saving lives, Lieutenant Boender said, and sharing the job with the Marine Corps brings invaluable results.
"It's by far the most rewarding job that I've done," he said. "The Marine Corps is a very special group of people to work with ... and they definitely know how to get things accomplished."
Col. Ken Hasegawa, FPSS commander, said the reward comes from not only averting disaster, but also from being part of a larger team with a common goal -- saving lives.
"The ability to 'see first, understand first, and act first' is giving our deployed multi-service forces crucial information and time to react," he said. "It's a privilege knowing our squadron fields systems that play a daily role in meeting that joint effort."
(Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)