FORT BLISS, TX- Following the failure of a planned communications system that would help all military members communicate more effectively, the Army is now conducting research and development on a new system which leaders say "will take military communications into the future."
The Joint Tactical Radio System, or JTRS, a program designed to allow all four branches to communicate seamlessly, was cancelled late last year by the House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services. Costing $15 billion over 15 years, the JTRS was seen by many in Congress as a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Despite the setback, the Department of the Army has used the opportunity to explore better options for efficient communications on the battlefield.
Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno recently spoke with the Duffel Blog concerning the Army's new direction.
"We basically blew the entire communications budget for the next twenty years on the JTRS. Now we have troops with no effective means of communication. I tasked the best and brightest in the Army to come up with a solution to this commo quagmire and the results are nothing less than stellar."
The new system, dubbed KITDFOHS (Kinetic Internal Directly Functional Operational Homing Science), involves the use of revolutionary "direct message deliverers", also known as hand and arm signals, carrier pigeons, yelling, and smoke signals.
Chief Information Officer of the Army Lieutenant General Susan Lawrence informed the Duffel Blog that each of these systems have their pros and cons.
"Smoke signals are great for the troops to contact each other in the field. It's much better than some stupid old radio and only limited by how far the troops can see."
"Carrier pigeons have replaced all forms of e-mail for the Army as well as becoming the go to solution for long distance communication," she added. "This is due in part to GEN Odierno tasking me with cutting any unnecessary spending on communications to avoid further problems like those caused by the JTRS."
Sergeant Major Kevin McCrary, the enlisted adviser to LTG Lawrence, praised Lawrence's innovation in the field of communication. "She's truly a visionary. Without radios it seemed hopeless for the boots on the ground. With her quick thinking she was able to invent several new forms of communication."
McCrary added, "I would have never thought that yelling and hand and arm signals would be so useful. Now, instead of having a radio in an MRAP, the troops just have the lowest ranking stand on top and relay messages to other trucks using hand and arm signals."
Soldiers in Afghanistan have found implementing these new methods somewhat troublesome. Staff Sergeant Chad Moreno, an infantry squad leader, explained the troubles faced by the soldiers on the basic level.
"Hand and arm signals, OK. Yelling, OK. But fuck, carrier pigeons and smoke signals? Now on patrol one of my guys has to carry a cage on his back with pigeons in it. Another troop is stuck carrying kindling and flint everywhere we go. Have you ever tried to build a fire while taking fire? It ain't easy."
He continued, "These pigeons are the nastiest creatures I've ever seen. Not to mention anytime we go through a market all the Afghans ask 'how much, how much?' Sheesh, I have a hard enough time doing anything with this bullshit ROE, now I have to deal with this shit?"
Despite reservations, SSG Moreno did stress some of the benefits of the new system.
"While it's pretty tough to have to carry this stuff, it makes for a good punishment technique. Whoever pisses me off is getting pigeon shit all over their gear by the end of the patrol."