GULFPORT, Miss. -- Losing lives on the battlefield is a tragedy that is very saddening. However, lives lost due to friendly fire incidents is even more heart-wrenching, and is a nightmare America should not have to face.In an effort to save lives and prevent friendly fire incidents in the future, more than 4,000 United States and coalition military personnel joined forces along the Gulf Coast, April 15-26, to evaluate systems and procedures that identify friendly and enemy forces while on the battlefield.The field evaluation, otherwise known as the Joint Combat Identification Evaluation Team (JCIET) 2002, is a U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) sponsored event that allowed more than 50 "combat ready" military units the chance to test their combat identification systems and procedures.The primary mission of JCIET is to employ the equipment and personnel of all four services, and approved Allied/Coalition forces, to evaluate, investigate, and assess joint integration and interoperability of systems, concepts, capabilities, tactics, techniques, and procedures, and doctrine that directly affect combat identification within the present and future joint battle space."JCIET is a very intense and complex evaluation that will better prepare the Marine Corps to save friendly lives while on the battlefield," said Col. Gerald E. Webb, officer-in-charge, Marine Forces Detachment, JCIET-02. "This evaluation gives Marines a chance to get an overall operational and administrative interface with joint and allied forces, which will allow us to more readily identify friend and foe on the battlefield."JCIET was designed to evaluate four mission areas: air-to-air, surface-to-air, air-to-surface, and surface-to-surface. However, JCIET-02 has been designated as an evaluation of only air-to-surface and surface-to-air mission areas.More than 800 Marines from both the active and reserve forces participated in JCIET-02. In addition to the personnel, the Marine Corps supplied a large portion of the technical equipment, aircraft, and tanks for the evaluation."Originally, only 250 Marines were supposed to participate in JCIET this year," said Maj. Ben Palmer, operations officer, Marine Forces Detachment, JCIET-02. "But due to real world missions the Army and Air Force had a lot of players drop out, and the Marine Corps numbers have grown to approximately 800."Under the lead of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, the Marine Forces' mission mirrored the JCIET mission with emphasis put into the execution of tactical unit level operations in support of joint/combined service evaluations."During JCIET, the Marine Corps will evaluate all levels of responsibility but will focus on the small unit team evaluation," said Webb, assistant wing commander, 4th MAW. "Our goal is to ensure everyone is properly trained, down to the lowest level of responsibility, so that we kill the right target."Throughout the two-week evaluation, the Marine Corps tested several systems, techniques, and procedures in both day and nighttime scenarios. For example, Marine Air Control Squadron 24, provided ground control intercepts, surveillance, air combat identification, and sector air defense command for the friendly forces of the Air Force. Additionally, they evaluated the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) with the Navy. "By participating in this joint exercise we get to find the interoperability between the different services," said Sgt. Rudolph Williams, air command control electrical operator, MACS-24, Naval Activity Damneck, Va. "Junior Marines get to learn the different procedures of the other services, as well as how we perform in the field. This is the first time many of our Marines have got to set up equipment other than in garrison."Marines from Marine Wing Communications Squadron 48, located at Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Ill., were tasked with providing network and terrestrial communications in support of all forces. Also, Marines from 3rd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, from Long Beach, Calif., were charged with controlling close air support (CAS) for Navy Marine Attack Squadron 542. While controlling the CAS, 3rd ANGLICO utilized the new digital Advanced Close Air Support System."We are evaluating some of the most sophisticated data collection, data analysis and radar systems in the military," said Palmer. "These evaluations will show us how well we take command and control of our airspace, and how well we identify and execute the enemy."Palmer also noted that technologies of today are amazingly much more advanced and accurate than those used during the Gulf War.Throughout the evaluation, all participants were connected electronically through data links that captured their movements and actions. The data was transmitted to a centralized accumulation point where evaluators analyzed and determined whether or not friendly fire incidents occurred. Procedures, systems or tactics that lead to friendly fire incidents will be thoroughly studied by JCIET and recommendations will be distributed to prevent possible "real world" occurrences. In addition to the JCIET evaluators, the Marine Corps Systems Command, located at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., provided evaluators, contractors, analysts, and experimental systems in support of Marine Corps objectives. The information and findings gathered during JCIET-02 will be published in an in-depth formal report, approved by USJFCOM and then forwarded to the Department of Defense and national decision-makers. An initial detailed analysis will be provided to all participants within 45 days, and a final report that includes relevant findings, conclusions and recommendations will be provided within six months."The Marine Corps will take from this evaluation, not exercise, information that will make us more successful on the battlefield," said Webb. "We will take the feedback regarding systems and tactics and put it to use, so we can avoid friendly fire casualties."Since JCIET became a joint activity under USJFCOM in October 2000, it has evolved into an annual event that is the nation's primary means to analyze how the military identifies friendly and enemy targets on the battlefield. JCIET-03 is currently scheduled to take place in June 2003 during "Roving Sands," at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M.