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PEO IEWS and 401st AFSB partner to retrograde Army's 'eye in the sky'

June 21, 2013

By Sharonda Pearson, 401st AFSB Public Affairs

Kandahar Airfield, AFGHANISTAN--In a joint effort between PEO Intelligence Electronic Warfare and Sensors and 4th Battalion, 401st Army Field Support Brigade, the first Persistent Threat Detection Systems, or PTDS, was retrograded on June 21 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

"I started working with Maj. James Bluman last year to find a suitable place to conduct PTDS retrograde operations. Over the course of several months of hard work we came up with several solutions. Lt. Col. Stanley Sliwinski decided the best course of action was to utilize a K-Span located on the 401st footprint and the yard around it," said Gary Holder, Force Pro PTDS liaison officer. "Their efforts saved the United States taxpayers about $1 million. Instead of boarding new land and having a facility built, we were able to utilize existing property that was perfect in this effort," he added.

The PTDS, also known as the "eye in the sky," is a 74,000 cubic foot helium-filled aerostat that is tethered to a mooring platform, which is accompanied by a Ground Control Station. The system provides persistent surveillance, convoy watch-over, radio relay and response to insurgent activity within Operation Enduring Freedom battle space and provides near real-time eyes on potential targets.

Holder says that PEO IEWS opted to use individuals already trained to maintain the Persistent Threat Detection Systems to perform the retrograde to expedite the process. "Instead of trying to hire new people, we used 10-15 of our best subject matter experts from out in the field to perform the retrograde," he said.

Maj. James Bluman, a systems acquisitions officer for the 4th Battalion, 401st Army Field Support Brigade, agrees that providing space for the PTDS--which acts as a force multiplier for commanders on the ground and can be utilized to scan large areas of terrain for potential insurgent activity while interacting with various other sensors to give a complete picture of potential threat--is a win-win for the Army and taxpayers.

"We were very thankful that we could provide such a capable facility to the Project Manager in order to facilitate the inspection, cleaning, and inventory of these critical Force Protection systems for retrograde," Bluman said. "Redeployment protects the American taxpayers' long-term investment in high-quality military equipment," he added.

The current value of U.S. equipment in Afghanistan is about $30 billion and it will cost approximately $6 billion to retrograde equipment out of Afghanistan. Materiel and equipment recovered from Afghanistan will be repaired, refurbished and returned back to the force, enabling the Army to redeploy when the nation calls.

"As we drawdown, it's essential that we look across our footprint and use available resources in the most efficient and effective way possible in support of the retrograde mission," said Lt. Col. Stanley Sliwinski, commander of 4th Battalion, 401st Army Field Support Brigade. "I was able to convert a recently vacated Joint Program Office Mine Resistant Ambush Protected K-Span on my footprint into a workspace that is ideal for the significant labor involved in preparing the PTDS aerostats for retrograde" Sliwinski added.

The PTDS is fielded by Program Executive Office Intelligence Electronic Warfare & Sensors, and personnel manning the systems fall under the 401st AFSB in theater.

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