The first time I sat down at an Air Force surveillance radar console I thought I was seeing things.
I was. I saw a lot of things, none of which remotely resembled anything I recognized. It looked to me like someone had laid a flatscreen TV on its back and spilled something on it, every three seconds. The ‘snow’ I remember from the days of television rabbit ears and tin foil looked polite in comparison.
Doggedly I set out to master the intricacies of deciphering the electronic mishmash, this cludge of glyphs and runes I was sure those NCO trainers had come up with just to bedevil me. After what seemed like decades of staring at the screen, I began noticing a more or less repetitive nature to some of it.
Arrugh? Turns out that anything stationary can attenuate the radar signal. Uneven ground, recurrent weather, mountains, tall buildings, Area 51, your brother-in-law’s ego. And since those things don’t move unless you live on a fault line, that basic shape will show up in the same spot with each radar beam sweep.
Ground clutter. Got it. Pesky, obscuring stuff that’s always there, keeping you from getting a clear vision of what’s around you.
From then on, I was off and running, learning how to distinguish correlated data from its uncorrelated kin; how to use the movement of radar returns to ‘dead-reckon’ where a target aircraft might be; knowing how to ‘see’ through active jamming and help guide interceptors to the vicinity of the jamming aircraft.
Air surveillance. Interceptor weapons control. Combat Crew. Qualified / Skilled / Expert ready. Normal stuff in the radar world.
I learned some things that apply now.
There’ll always be ground clutter. It’s that stuff that confuses issues, clouds judgment, fuzzes clarity, and basically clutters up your mind, body and spirit.
- Ground clutter is often of your own making, junk you’ve left lying around in your heart and mind that keeps getting in the way, obscuring your ability to see things straight. Just like radar returns, your usual ground clutter is always getting in the way in the same place. Why not? It works, right? Diverts, distracts, numbs and dumbs . . .
- If you pay attention, you’ll begin to see patterns to it. You’ll see it for what it is, and be able to look up and beyond to focus on what’s important in your life. And you’ll recognize threats in time to do something about them.
The Enemy is always probing your defenses, jamming every signal he can. He’s real good at it, too.
- He can make it look as if there are scads of him all coming at you at once so you never know from whence the actual threat is coming.
- He can also send a false signal that makes you think he’s somewhere way off from where he actually is.
There are other applications here, but you get the point. The less ground clutter there is in your life – anything just always there, always in the way, keeping you from seeing what’s really around you – the better able you are to keep a sharp eye on what the Adversary is doing.
GC can be habits, recurring notions or pet ideas. Repetitive prejudices or superstitions. Anything that gets in the way and keeps you from seeing a clear picture of what – and who – is getting close to you.
GC is counterproductive. It can also be lethal if it routinely obscures a blindsiding attack. Mark it down: the Adversary knows where those blind spots are, too.
You’re ahead of me. “86 as much of anything constituting ground clutter as you can.”
You got it.
© D. Dean Boone, Memorial Day 2017