They may not be the best thing since sliced bread, but in the radio world of the foot Soldier, the Harris radios, now being fielded throughout the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) and the rest of the Army, would come pretty close.

The brigade’s 25U (signal service support military occupational  specialty) Soldiers have begun training on the Harris AN/PRC-152 that will replace the AN/PRC-148 MBITR, and the Harris AN/PRC-117G radios that will replace the AN/PSC-5D SATCOM (satellite communications) radio, according to Sgt. 1st Class Robert Fees.

Fees, the 97th CAB (Abn.) S6 (communications section) noncommissioned officer, received the two-week training at the brigade S6 facility in late February.

“The biggest thing is that the Harris AN/PRC-152 is more user-friendly for the guys on the ground,” Fees said, about the military radio that also serves as a secure data transfer device. “It’s an easier-to-train radio. I can train Soldiers on the Harris152 easier than the 148 MBITR. It’s going to make it easier for us to go downrange and support our Soldiers without outside assistance.”

As the third leg of C3 of military operations, command, control and communication, good field radios are literally a Soldier’s lifeline on the battlefield.

Soldiers in austere environments in remote territories need to talk, e-mail, access maps, photos, and information databases, maybe more so than smart phone and electronic tablet users in the United States.

But while consumers here are supported by thousands of cell phone towers and protected commercial network servers, it’s a different wireless world for Soldiers downrange. They must rely mostly on what they carry on their backs and sling on their shoulders in unfriendly territory, according to Fees.

“The major advantage is that data transfer is much, much more efficient,” said Master Sgt. Stoney Lindsey, the 95th CAB S6 senior NCO.  Lindsey said the new radio can transfer a 40-megabyte file in the same amount of time as a 2 megabyte file on the old radio.

“It’s really the latest and greatest radio technology in the force,” said Maj. Karla Porch, the brigade’s signal officer, in describing the Harris 152. “The menu is much easier to see, and you have a remote control device, so you don’t even have to take the radio out of the radio pouch on your kit. On patrol, you can put the remote control on your wrist and control the radio settings.”

Porch praised the new SATCOM radio.

“The 117G is a lot smaller, half the size of the PSC-5D. The handheld is a little bit bigger but does three times as much.”

Lindsey added that the Harris 117G uses Harris’ propriety ANW2C waveform,  and is thus more efficient than PSC-5D, which uses the PDA-184 protocol that is shared with other commercial users.

“Both radios are made by the same company, so it’s like going to a car dealership where they take care of all your needs,” Lindsey said.

“This isn’t the radio I used to jump and ruck around with,” said Don Becken, an instructor with Harris Communications. “This radio is like five radios mixed into one, as well as a router, a networking device, and a landline encryption device. It’s smaller but has about ten times the capability I used to have.”

Becken compared the radios he was teaching that week to the radios he used to call in airstrikes as an Air Force joint tactical air controller in the 1990’s.

“Training is going great,” Fees said. “The instructor from Harris is very knowledgeable, very thorough. We got through the PowerPoint stuff as quickly as possible, to move on to actually touching the radio and operating it. Like any signal equipment, if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it, but if it’s fresh in your mind, it’s pretty easy to operate.”