Cyber Information

Soldier, design engineer, mechanic and electronics technician – the EW maintenance sergeant

Soldier, design engineer, mechanic and electronics technician – the EW maintenance sergeant

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Hauptfeldwebel (HFw) Marcel Arndt is serving as a maintenance sergeant in the 912th Electronic Warfare (EW) Battalion in the north German town of Nienburg (Weser). His and his team`s service is needed whenever a sensitive and state-of-the-art Electronic Warfare system have to be maintained-ranging from antennas to complex overall systems.

A soldier in a cabin.

HFw Arndt is a specialist for EW equipment.

Bundeswehr/Frank Donat

“Variety characterizes my daily work”, Arndt says. “We are responsible for the EW equipment of vehicles, for the antennas and receiver systems and for all the technical equipment built into vehicles and mobile containers, so-called cabins, rather than for the vehicles themselves.” Arndt and his team measure the signal paths and find faults to help German EW forces accomplish its important mission of reconnaissance in the cyber and information space. The 1st company of the 912th EW Battalion is located in Nienburg (Weser).

Combat ready equipment

“Our companies have a wide range of state-of-the-art systems. For instance for the detection location and analysis of radar sets”, Arndt says. “These systems range from upgraded Fuchs, armoured wheeled transport vehicles equipped with multiband radio sets to small antennas.” What signal reconnaissance personnel need most to accomplish their mission apart from expertise is serviceable equipment. This is where Arndt comes in. In several maintenance squads, each consisting of up to four soldiers, they look after the approximately 30 systems, some of them are very different, of the 912th EW Battalion.

From antennas to protective grilles

A soldier screwing something onto a metal container.

Manual dexterity is often needed to maintain material.

Bundeswehr/Frank Donat

HFw Arndt is a communications electronics technician by profession and a mission-experienced specialist sergeant today. “This means that I have considerable expertise in electronic systems, but we need much more to keep EW equipment serviceable”, he says. HFw Arndt and his team deal with the whole range of material from the engines for deploying antennas to the highly sensitive antennas themselves and the grilles that protect sensitive sensors. “We are often asked to provide services of electronics technicians. At other times, we are asked to provide services of mechanics”, he says. “And when systems have to be built into vehicles or cabins, we are even asked to provide services of design engineers.”

Diverse and flexible

A soldier working on an oscilloscope.

Sensitive high-tech equipment must be finely tuned to gather important information.

Bundeswehr/Frank Donat

HFw Arndt has acquired his extensive knowledge in different areas during training courses and through private study. “We were trained to detect and analyze faults, among other things”, he explains. “But our systems are so numerous and diverse that maintenance personnel cannot be trained to maintain all of those systems.” HFw Arndt and his team have often been asked to solve unknown technical problems quickly. “We try to solve such problems by trial and error and by relying on our common expertise”, the maintenance specialist says, “but it is these unknowns that make our work interesting. We can always rely on the wide-ranging knowledge of the team.”

At the home station, during exercises and during deployments abroad

A soldier operating a crane.

A crane is used in some kinds of maintenance work to position equipment in the right places.

Bundeswehr/Frank Donat

“Our expertise is unique in the Bundeswehr”, Arndt says, “the battalion’s maneuver companies have material no one else in the Bundeswehr has.” The 2nd company is the 912th EW Battalion’s “seafaring” company. Its members are posted aboard intelligence collectors to gather information above and below water and in coastal areas in different deployment areas. The 3rd company provides the German air force with the information it needs during exercises and operations, according to HFw Arndt. The 4th company is capable of mobile reconnaissance of radio relay links and of radar emissions with its armored vehicle-based systems. That capability is needed to support operations of ground forces in particular. “Of course, we always support our maneuver companies with our mobile maintenance shops during exercises and deployments abroad”, HFw Arndt says, “because without us, there is no serviceable material.” Only the 912th EW battalion has these reconnaissance systems. Arndt has repeatedly shown his abilities during deployments abroad, which he regards as the biggest challenges he has faced during his career.

by Sebastian Wanninger  email

Q and A

What do you feel is the most important aspect of a job?

The diversity of the work and the initiative that is needed to solve unknown problems with systems.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far?

My first deployment abroad because it was a completely new situation for me.

What was the most impactful experience in your time of service?

An officer once told me I would never be a professional soldier. It motivated me immensely to prove him wrong, and I proved him wrong.