1/12 Receives Personal Data Assistants
By Sgt. R. A. Barnett
| | May 08, 2007
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii --
As the information technology industry soars, so do the needs and expectations of the Marine Corps. First battalion, 12th Marine Regiment is no exception, as they upgrade their call for fire capability with the latest technologies. The Ruggedized Personal Data Assistant (RPDA), a handheld personal computer (PC) made to withstand the rugged environment in which the military operates, has made its way into the hands of the 1/12 forward observers, making life a lot simpler for some. “This new technology makes call for fire a lot easier,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon M. Hause, scout observer, Headquarters Battery. “The digital communication is so much better than the Digital Communications Terminal (DCT).” The Pocket-sized Forward Entry Device (PFED) is the latest version of software available for use on RPDAs. The software program uses digital communication between forward observer teams, who submit the call for fire instantly over the AN/PRC 119, the commonly used radio of the Marine Corps. The PFED has been fielded to replace the older AN/PSC-2 DCT, which has been in use since the late ‘80s. With a windows-based operating system, 64 MB RAM and a 400 MHz processor, the user will be able to utilize a touch responsive LCD screen to formulate a call for fire, sending it through the AN/PRC-119 to the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) located in the Fire Support Coordination Center (FSC) as well as the Fire Direction Center (FDC) at the artillery unit, allowing for more accurate fires, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Arnold E. Albrecht, PFED Program Manager, Marine Corps Systems Command.The PFED can also connect to the latest laser range finder, the Leica Vector/Viper and the AN/PSN-11 Precision Lightweight GPS Receiver (PLGR), enabling the observer to “laze” the target and instantly have the information entered into the PFED, requiring only target description and requested ammunition before sending the mission. Previously, forward observers used maps and radio to pinpoint target locations, determining grid coordinates and verbally calling in for fire support. What would normally take 45 seconds of communication for a mission to be sent, can now be done in 10 seconds, said Albrecht. The observer will now be able to get the most accurate fire support in the fastest manner, preventing the enemy from being able to react. “The biggest benefit is the user friendly application with templates that speed up the call for fire process,” said Hause.One of the many features of the PFED is the ability to input target location, target description, degree of protection, type of ammunition, number of rounds, and method of fire and control. This information is easily read, as it is displayed through pictures. In addition to call for fire capability, the PFED is capable of writing and sending a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Report, an enemy sighting report, and a Medical Evacuation Report. “We can also send a Close Air Support (CAS) brief and report the unit’s status directly to the AFATDS, without calling it in,” said Hause. The RPDA measures 5.75 inches by 3.5 inches by 1.5 inches and weighs 1.2 to 2.9 pounds, depending on the battery configuration and attachments, considerably less than the much more cumbersome DCT. “I really like the compact size of the device as well as the versatility and longevity of the power sources available,” said Hause. “As well as being durable and water resistant, the PFED can run for eight hours of continued use on its internal battery, and comes with an NVG filter to enable the user to see the screen clear as day, even at night,” said Albrecht.Future versions of the software will allow use with radios having longer range capabilities and will have digital maps installed. The options to add devices will also allow future versions to install a GPS chip, as well as wireless connections for the laser-range-finding binoculars. “We’ve received nothing but positive feedback from Marines,” said Albrecht. The fielding of the PFED and RPDAs to 1/12 was the end of this introduction to Marine Corps artillery units. After one week of training, forward observers, radio operators and scout observers from 1/12 now have in their possession six new RPDAs with the PFED program.