Thursday, October 30, 2014
   
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Bronze Star for outstanding service in Afghanistan

Nic Alberts engaged in electronic warfare

Instead of kicking down doors to look for the enemy, U.S. Army staff sergeant Nic Alberts spent a year in Afghanistan armed with a laptop computer in an air-conditioned amphitheater.

“I wasn’t in harm’s way,” Alberts said.

What the 2003 Gothenburg High School graduate did in that military situation room earned him a bronze medal for processing ground electronic attack forms, jamming enemy radio frequencies, providing resources for electronic attack (jamming) missions and more.

Part of the bronze star medal narrative spoke about Albert’s tactical competence and understanding of the technical capabilities of all available electronic warfare assets.

A military asset is usually a weapon or production of weapons or other defensive or offensive devices or capabilities like aircraft.

Providing assets, the narrative read, ensured both ground-based and airborne assets were synchronized and de-conflicted to provide the best available coverage of operations.

Alberts received the medal during a ceremony at the end of his deployment.

Although getting the medal felt good, he said he just wanted to go home.

Interestingly, Alberts was trained as a nuclear biological chemical specialist when he entered the military after high school.

At Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri, he and others learned such things as how to don chemical gear, how to protect against a chemical nuclear attack and about weapons of mass destruction.

His first deployment was to Korea for a year, before returning to States and to Ft. Drum in New York.

Alberts then joined the National Guard for four years before returning to active duty in 2010 as an electromagnetic spectrum manager.

“There is so much technology and different equipment transmits on certain frequencies,” he explained.

Enter electronic warfare which Alberts said is disrupting enemy communications while insuring that friendly communications are untouched.

Once he stepped off the plane at the U.S. Air Force Base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Alberts joined 50 to 60 soldiers in a situation room.

There, a large wall of projected images showed military situations that were happening throughout Afghanistan.

“Enablers like myself could see what assets we could provide,” he said.

As situations developed, Alberts said he’d be asked what he could provide in terms of “effects” like communication denial, disruption or exploitation to feed intelligence to soldiers on the ground.

“Then direct electronic warfare assets from there,” he said.

Basically what he learned, he said, was how to use military capabilities and different methods to exploit the enemy.

He and other enablers (electronic welfare specialists) also became competent in providing for soldiers on the ground with the permission of commanding officers.

Once he learned the process, Alberts said he began to get creative with assets he provided ground troops.

Perhaps the biggest frustration, he said, was coordinating assets for a mission three to four days in advance and having those assets pulled or the mission cancelled because of another operation that took priority.

A result could be the initial mission not being supported because of lack of assets, such as aircraft, so that mission would later come under fire by insurgents.

“Whether or not electronic warfare could have made a difference in those situations remains unknown,” Alberts said. “At the end of the day, we’d have to think we made the right choice.”

The only time he left the base was to fly to a military base known as Apache for a few days.

“They were having communication problems so I did an interference analysis which was what I was trained for initially,” Alberts said.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for Alberts in Afghanistan was what he experienced at the military base in Kandahar.

“I expected it to be tense,” he said.

Instead, Alberts shared a small room with four other soldiers. The base had running water, several mess halls and a big square that featured such amenities as American restaurants, shops—including a phone store—and a soccer field.

“It didn’t feel like a deployment at all,” he said.

Alberts is now on a month-long leave and is spending part of it with his parents, Mark and Deb Alberts of Gothenburg.

He’ll return to Fountain, CO, near the Ft. Carson Army base, and plans to stay in the Army. Alberts eventually wants to earn a degree in electrical engineering.

As far as another deployment, he said anything is possible.

“That’s a choice I took when I signed up and the Army decides that,” Alberts said.

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