Tactical Tailor

Archive for the ‘CEMA’ Category

Veteran, Linguist Reflects on Vietnam Service

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area in California, Dr. Tom Glenn originally enlisted in the Army so he could attend the Army Language School — later called the Defense Language Institute, or DLI. With a passion and knack for linguistics, Glenn taught himself French and Italian as a child, studied Latin during high school and German during college.

With a craving for more, Glenn enrolled in DLI with the hopes of learning Chinese.

“I wanted to go to the best language school in the U.S., maybe in the world,” he said. “But when I got [there], they told me they weren’t going to teach me Chinese, they were going to teach me a language I had never heard of: Vietnamese.”

Glenn was a Soldier and had to follow orders, so he spent all of 1959 learning Vietnamese. He spent six hours a day in class with two hours of private study each night for a full year.

“I graduated first in my class of ten,” he said. “I asked the Army to send me to Vietnam but [they said] they had nothing going on there.” Instead, Glenn was assigned to the National Security Agency, or NSA, at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Still hoping to study Chinese, Glenn enrolled in George Washington University in Washington, D.C. as a part time graduate student. Glenn went on to earn a master’s degree in government and a doctorate in public administration.

By the time Glenn finished his enlistment in 1961, he said he was “comfortably speaking” Vietnamese, Chinese and French; the three main languages spoken in Vietnam.

The NSA immediately offered Glenn a job at “five steps above the normal level” and sent him to Vietnam for the first time in 1962 as a civilian.

“Between 1962 and 1975, I spent more time in Vietnam than in the U.S.,” he said.

Despite being a civilian, Glenn lived with the military as if he were still a Soldier.

Tom Glenn poses for a photo in his fatigue uniform in Dak To, Vietnam in 1967. One morning while assisting U.S. 4th infantry division and 173rd airborne brigade, Glenn woke up to find his uniforms missing. Some of the Soldiers at his camp had “snitched” his fatigues and taken them to a local tailor whom they paid to sew tags above the breast pockets that read ‘Glenn’ and ‘Civilian.’ (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo)

“I was one of them — sleeping on the ground next to them, eating [field rations while] sitting in the dirt by their side, using their latrines and going into combat with them,” he said. “I was the only civilian I knew who was willing to put his life on the line by working with the military in combat on the battlefield.”

Tom Glenn in Saigon, Vietnam in 1962 (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo)

Glenn’s job was in intelligence; using signals intelligence, intercepting and exploiting the enemy’s radio communications, informing friendly forces on what enemy force intentions were and where they were.

He says that the strongest human bond he’s ever seen was that between two men fighting side by side.

Glenn spent his thirteen years in Vietnam all over the country, “wherever combat was going on.” He worked most often in central Vietnam, just south of the demilitarized zone that separated North and South Vietnam. The day-to-day was just like any other Soldier in combat.

“[The days were] defined by the boredom of waiting and the terror of close combat,” he said.

Glenn wants Americans to know the “grisly horror” of war. He wants citizens to respect and admire service members who “put their lives on the line for our good.”

After the Vietnam War, Glenn’s readjustment to civilian life would have been more difficult had he been sent straight home. Instead, he was sent abroad to serve on the battlefield all over the world after Saigon fell in 1975.

Glenn retired from NSA in 1992.

Tom Glenn in Saigon, Vietnam in 1974 (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo)

A Civilian Meritorious Medal that Glenn earned for saving lives during the fall of Saigon, Vietnam under fire in 1975 (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo)

“Welcome home, brother”

When Glenn meets other Vietnam veterans, he puts his hands on their shoulders and looks them in the eye. They share an experience unknown to other Americans.

For years following the war, many Americans saw Vietnam as “the war we never should have been involved in.” During those years, Glenn never mentioned his service overseas.

“Then, several years ago, I was invited to a welcome-home party for Vietnam veterans,” he said. “After some hesitation, I went. A bunch of young people, who hadn’t even been born before the end of [the war], shook my hand, hugged me and thanked me for my service.”

Glenn urges other Americans to approach those who served and thank them. Only then will that service member know that their service is “worthy of gratitude.”

Award-winning author

“The real adjustment [came] thirty years ago when I retired as early as I could [to] write full time,” Glenn said. “I was so intent on writing that the transition was a relief rather than an adjustment.”

Glenn’s first book is titled “Friendly Casualties” and consists of a collection of short stories to highlight the horrors of war. He chose to write about Vietnam because of his post-traumatic stress injuries, or PTSI. “[It] wounded my soul,” he said.

He learned that the only way to survive his injuries was to face the memories “head-on.” The best way to force himself to face those memories was to write it all down, which has resulted in six books and 17 short stories as of March 2022.

Glenn’s books are categorized as “fact-based fiction” which he said is the only way he could “delve into the emotions [he] lived through in real life.” He said he’s lived through experiences “far more compelling” than anything completely made up.

“I want people to know what [it was like],” he said. “I needed to vent, to stand face-to-face with my memories and learn to live with them.”

By Megan Clark

Electronic Battle: Cold War Peer-Threat SIGINT Then and Now | Cold War Wednesday

Wednesday, March 30th, 2022

As the man said, “Ivan will destroy your grid square if you even key your radio, let alone talk to your squad. Break out the books and practice. This is for real.”

Given recent events in and around Ukraine, we thought it might be interesting to consider the contrast of what modern technology – particularly social media – has to electronic-related security issues in contrast to what we were taught during the Cold War era. PERSEC, INFOSEC, OPSEC, ELINT, SIGINT, COMINT, and of course EMCON – there is absolutely no shortage of acronyms all those cell phones (among other things) might jeopardize…and with them, both missions and lives (see reported Redditor example, below).

Combat Electronic Warfare and Intelligence is one hell of a lot more complicated now than it was in the teen years of the Superbowl. Cyber Warfare and GPS Spoofing are just two examples. Geolocating is another. Even something as simple as a Google image search can precipitate an attack. Several examples of this have emerged over the last few weeks on both sides of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Compromised by TikTok” and “death by Reddit” sound funny until the Kalibrs and Bayraktars come calling. While apps like Air Alarm are certainly beneficial, they don’t counterbalance all the OSINT opportunities afforded by Telegram, Instagram, Twitter, and the like. This is why cell phones are often taken up before training evolutions and troop movements (unless, apparently, you’re Chechen).

But if you’re reading this, chances are you already know that.

What you might not know, depending on the length of your teeth, is what electronic warfare and signals doctrine looked like 40 or 50 years ago. And that’s why we’re sharing the following article.

Much like Crossfit workouts and pet shenanigans, you gotta take a pic of your invasion or it didn’t happen.

The Electronic Battle

Lt. Col. Don E. Gordon

INFANTRY Magazine, 1980

The Reddit Example

Even if this report is apocryphal, the lesson it delivers is not. 

Thoughts on then vs. now?

More SIGINT history


David Reeder is a sometime SOLSYS contributor and reporter-at-large. He is currently the editor of the GunMag Warehouse blog (The Mag Life) and the world’s okayest 1/6 scale kit-basher. 

Pennsylvania Guard First Guard to Field New SIGINT System

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. — The Pennsylvania National Guard is the first National Guard in the country to field the new Tactical Dismounted Electronic Warfare and Signals Intelligence (TDEWS) system.

Eight Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers trained at Fort Indiantown Gap March 13-17 on the TDEWS, which filled a significant gap in the training of Soldiers in the intelligence Military Occupational Specialties. Signals Intelligence advisers from the Army National Guard Technical Control and Analysis Element and the Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Program of the Mission Training Complex facilitated the training.

“This system adds a huge amount of value to our intelligence capabilities,” said Warrant Officer Trevor Burgess, a signals intelligence analysis technician with 28th Infantry Division, the Pennsylvania Guard’s senior SIGINT technician. “Soldiers train for six months to acquire the MOS, then when they get to their units here in Pennsylvania, they didn’t have this equipment to train on and the support of full-time subject matter experts that the Army National Guard G2 provides, so this does improve our intelligence capability.”

The TDEWS is a dedicated, all-weather, tactical electronic warfare system providing force protection and situational awareness to commanders at any echelon.

“We went from classroom instruction to hands-on setting up and tearing down the system over and over, to using it in a controlled dismounted environment, and then in the past two days, we’ve been able to pack it up in our special man packs we were issued for the system and actually come out here and work with trainers who built situational training exercise lanes for us to train on,” said Sgt. Emily Rivas, a cryptologic linguist with the 103rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division.

The 56th SBCT will be doing a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, this summer. The training will ensure these Soldiers can employ this new equipment during the brigade’s validation exercise and can execute their mission as they would on the battlefield, Burgess said.

“The thing with this system that makes it so nice for our training is that we’re able to just fire it up and use it whenever we want at any training site,” said Rivas. The previous system required a lot of coordination and approvals, which became cumbersome.

During the recent training at Fort Indiantown Gap, the eight Soldiers were divided into two-person teams to locate trainers posing as enemy forces at a rubble pile. Rivas’ team was the first to locate their target.

“We were able to lock it down really fast, locating the enemy really quickly and let the other teams know where they were and how they were communicating,” she said. “It felt really good to actually be able to see the system working and how it all comes together.”

“As of right now, I’m feeling very good about it,” said Sgt. Joe Falcone, a cryptologic linguist with the 103rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division. “We have a total of eight days so far training on this equipment, just due to the nature of being in the National Guard and that it was only fielded to us at the beginning of January, but every single day I feel leaps and bounds better.”

Falcone said he didn’t feel as comfortable with the device earlier in the week, but this event significantly improved his confidence in advance of the upcoming rotation.

“The NTC rotation will allow the Soldiers to actually utilize the skills that they train hard in, and use that to improve the intelligence footprint, the intelligence picture and make the overall mission a success,” said Burgess.

By SSG Zane Craig, Joint Force Headquarters – Pennsylvania National Guard

Marines Conducting CEMA

Friday, December 31st, 2021

Marine Michaela Matkins, a signal intelligence analyst and native of Louisa, Va., and Lance Cpl. Alison Harris, a communications intelligence electronic warfare analyst and Hernando, Miss., native, both with 3d Radio Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, survey analytics on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Marines with 3d Battalion, 3d Marines participated in a joint electronic warfare training event with 3d Radio Battalion, III MIG, and U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division where Marines and Soldiers learned and effectively utilized electronic warfare equipment in smaller sized combat elements to enhance combat lethality.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Patrick King

Marine Pilots Hone Proficiency in Information, Electronic Warfare

Sunday, December 19th, 2021


Marine pilots refocus their priorities, opting to train their electronic warfare capabilities to defeat adversaries in the information environment aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Dec. 2-3.

The training enabled U.S. Marines from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267 to familiarize themselves with the AN/ALQ-231 Intrepid Tiger II Electronic Warfare  pod from signals intelligence specialists with Team Ronin of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing intelligence section.

The IT II is a precision, on-demand, external carriage EW weapon system designed to provide Marine Corps aircraft with an organic, distributed and networked EW capability that can be controlled from the cockpit or by a ground operator. Its open architecture design and rapid reprogrammability give IT II the flexibility and adaptability to meet current and future threats.

The Marines of HMLA-267 are the first squadron in the 3rd MAW to conduct this style of training on the IT II with Team Ronin. Team Ronin’s signals intelligence and electronic warfare chief, Master Sgt. Chris Meser, expects to continue building familiarization with additional squadrons.

“The training was crucial in enhancing our readiness and capability,” said Meser. “By integrating with our organic rotary wing squadrons, this allowed for an improved concept of employment for future operations. This was the first of many in the training series for Electronic Warfare Integration. We intend to help foster an environment which provides a greater contribution to Operations in the Information Environment & Intelligence efforts.”

Training began with hands-on time with the IT II to develop a cursory understanding of its capabilities. Later, the system was loaded onto a UH-1Y Venom before running a variety of test-missions across its capability set to demonstrate its rapid reprogrammability. Once the practical application portion was completed, training concluded with signals intelligence specialists briefing all the systems capabilities and limitations to the pilots of HMLA-267.

1st Lt. Dylan Wesseling, intelligence officer for HMLA-267, was one of the training participants. “Communications jamming is going to be key in breaking down the kill chain for the enemy, and exploiting possible vulnerabilities,” said Wesseling. “The IT II provides the HMLA an organic electronic attack and electronic warfare support capability that is more accessible than the Marine Corps’ other high-demand, low-density assets, and I think that’s going to vital in a high-traffic littoral and maritime environment.”

While the IT II has been used in conflicts dating back to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, this was the first time many of the participants got the opportunity to train with the system. Given the renewed emphasis EW is expected to play on the next battlefield, the trainees appreciated the opportunity.

“The IT II is something that allows us to be relevant when coupled with the other capabilities of the HMLA,” Wesseling continued. “There’s no sugarcoating it. The next fight is going to be tough, but training that acknowledges our need to exploit the enemy’s dependence on technology and communications are exactly what we need to come out of that conflict as the winners.”

Team Ronin is next expected to put their knowledge of the IT II to the test in February 2022 for Exercise Winter Fury 2022. Winter Fury 2022 is a capstone annual exercise that allows the 3rd MAW to refine and validate emerging service level and unit level concepts that enhance aviation readiness in support of Fleet Marine Force and naval fleet maritime campaigns. Meser plans to distribute his team throughout 3rd MAW with various rotary wing squadrons, now that his Marines have a strong foundation in the fundamentals and can teach others in a field environment. Team Ronin also expects to work with the U.S. Navy aircraft participating in Winter Fury 2022 to enhance their ability to work as a joint littoral force.

This iteration of training utilized the IT II V(3), which can be employed on the UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper. This asset is not limited to these platforms alone. Other versions include the V(4), which was recently tested on the MV-22 Osprey, and the V(1), which can be flown on the AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 C/D Hornets, and KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft.

3rd MAW continues to “Fix, Fly and Fight” as the Marine Corps’ largest aircraft wing, and remains combat-ready, deployable on short notice, and lethal when called into action.

Story by 1st Lt Kyle McGuire, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Photo by Sgt Samuel Ruiz

Check Suspicious Shortened URLs

Sunday, December 12th, 2021

Some systems automatically make link forwarding URLs dead to protect the network, but not all shortened URLs are nefarious, sending you off to a phishing site. Some are used to make really long URLs short, others for marketing purposes and also to track link clicks.

If you’re concerned about where a shortened URL actually goes, you can check it at checkshorturl.com.

Advancing Cyber Warfare Training with Escape Room

Saturday, December 4th, 2021


Accelerating and changing the possibilities of learning, the 333rd Training Squadron implemented a new cyber escape room to test knowledge and sharpen the skillsets of cyber warfare students.

The students are put into a simulated hostile scenario, requiring them to think critically and apply their skills under pressure to “escape” the exercise.

“Our students approached this challenge with no plan,” said 2nd Lt. Kendra Perkins, 333rd TRS cyber warfare officer and escape room project manager. “This forces them to adjust to the environment, preparing our students for any complex or uncertain situations they might face.”

From decoding cyphers and packet tracing to programming and networking, the room provides students with a hands-on training experience. Throughout this cyber warfare class iteration, only one team was able to complete the challenge, which included 2nd Lt. Ethan Isaacson, 333rd TRS cyber warfare officer.

“Most of our tests have been in a controlled environment, focusing on the most recent concepts we learned,” said Isaacson. “The escape room required us to apply all of our curriculum we’ve learned. We had to put trust in ourselves and each other and we came out of this room more confident in our skillset.”

Capt. Luke Thornton, 333rd TRS cyber warfare instructor, provided his perspective as the class instructor, overseeing how the teams took on the challenge.

“We are able to test the team dynamics, communication and camaraderie of our students,” said Thornton. “Our students were put into a new situation with a lot of pressure and they had to really think outside the box. We were able to test our students to the best of their capabilities.”

Perkins said the inspiration for the escape room was derived from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. and his action orders to accelerate change across the Air Force through the direction of transforming the way we learn across all facets of Air Force education and training curricula including but not limited to professional military education to reflect renewed emphasis on competition and warfighting.

“Our goal was to create an environment that highlighted gamification to stray away from the initial Q&A or multiple choice and have something hands-on that was able to apply critical thinking, teamwork and communication as well as creating scenarios built on high standards for competition,” said Perkins.

By SrA Seth Haddix, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

Cracking Zendia’s Codes Safeguarded America

Sunday, November 21st, 2021

The National Cryptologic Museum operates as the National Security Agency’s principal gateway to the public, holding within its archives a treasure trove of cryptologic equipment. Its mission is to educate visitors in person and online about the role of cryptology in shaping history, from the ancient world to the present. In this occasional series, we highlight some of the rarest and most interesting artifacts found in its collection. Enjoy!

FORT MEADE, Md. – If the punchline to the famous joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” is practice, the same theory applies to National Security Agency staff who aspire to join the ranks of the best cryptanalysts in the world.

Over decades, cryptanalysts were trained by a world famous concert flautist who made it to Carnegie himself before entering the halls of the NSA to teach hundreds how to crack codes. Lambros Callimahos, born in Cairo to Greek parents, created musical history with an all-flute recital in New York’s most famous concert hall in 1938. After that he then pursued another of his passions, cryptology.  He entered the Army cryptologic service in 1941 and went on to teach cryptology at the Army Security Agency and later the NSA.

Callimahos’s students crossed the classroom threshold under a sign that said “Through these doors pass the Agency’s best cryptanalysts.” A master of languages, speaking 9 fluently and reading several more, he made up his own language and country to train his students. He imbued his fictional island nation of Zendia, not only with its own language, but a distinct culture, history, and a ruler, Salvo Salasio, whose picture bore more than a passing resemblance to a young Callimahos.

Salvo Salasio, the fictional ruler of the island nation of Zendia, bears a remarkable resemblance to a young Lambros Callimahos. Photo: National Cryptologic Museum

Recently the National Cryptologic Museum (NCM) uncovered long-lost materials from the course, which help tell the story of the NSA’s early training in cryptanalysis.

“These artifacts illustrate the attention to detail that Callimahos put into developing the training program provided to early NSA Cryptanalysts. The story of this program adds to the already rich history of American Cryptology,” said NCM Collections Manager Spencer Allenbaugh.

Callimahos’ course, which he taught for more than 20 years, was known as CA-400. It was an expansion of William Friedman’s original senior cryptanalytic course, and is still legendary around the Agency. Friedman was the NSA’s chief cryptologist in its earliest days.

The teaching materials used in CA-400 increased over the years, and by the mid-1970’s a student was expected to read over sixty books and documents. However, it was the “Zendian Problem” at the end of the course that needed solving before graduation.

Zendia represented Callimahos’s almost overwhelming thoroughness and creativity. Students were tasked with decoding radio intercepts from the fictional island. U.S. Army cartographers even drew up a map placing the small island in the Pacifika Ocean, right where some would say God forgot to put it. Students had to decipher 375 Zendian military messages, essentially Morse code intercepts in the Zendian language. The messages were enciphered by a variety of manual and machine systems. Over two weeks, students were tasked to decrypt and translate all the exploitable messages. If they could crack the made-up language, they could crack any other on earth.

The recent discoveries associated with the CA-400 course are the Zen-45 and Zen-50 cipher machines that students used to break the Zendian codes. The bright green machines mimicked real-world tools such as the SIGABA, and help tell the story of the NSA’s early cryptanalysis training.

“The National Cryptologic School (NCS) is enthusiastic over the museum’s discovery,” said Diane Janosek, Commandant of the NCS.

Diane Janosek poses alongside one of the newly discovered ZEN cipher machines used by Lambros Callimahos to teach National Security Agency staff to become cryptalnalysts. Photo by NSA

“The Zen devices provide us the opportunity to reflect on the rich history of the school and its immense value in contributing over five decades toward a well-educated and prepared workforce to defend our nation,” said Janosek.

Visitors to the NCM can look forward to seeing these treasured ZEN machines on exhibit when museum renovations are completed and the collection reopens in the Spring of 2022.