By Tech. Sgt. Shane P. Hill
Illinois Air National Guard
Soldiers of the 48th Infantry Brigade Special Troops Battalion operate a Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical-Terminal (SMART-T)-equipped Humvee July 23 as part of Patriot â€˜08 in preparation for an upcoming overseas deployment. Split between three locations â€“ Camp Ripley, Minn., Fort McCoy and Volk Airfield, Wis., â€“ Patriot â€™08 was a 21-day, large-scale exercise featuring more than 45 units from as many states. Additionally, the participation of Canadian, United Kingdom, and Dutch forces increased combined effectiveness (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Robert Barney/Released).
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Providing and maintaining communications during a major exercise was the challenge taken on recently by National Guard units participating in exercise Patriot 2008.
Split between three locations â€“ Camp Ripley, Minn., Fort McCoy, Wis., and Volk Airfield, Wis., â€“ Patriot â€™08 was a 21-day, large-scale military exercise featuring more than 45 units from as many states. It included the National Guard, Reserves and active duty of the U.S. Air Force and Army, and military forces from Canada, Great Britain and the Netherlands.
At Volk Field, Patriot â€˜08 kicked off July 13. According to Capt. Rob Siau, detachment commander for the 143rd Combat Communication Squadron (CBCS) and the squadronâ€™s Patriot mission commander, the exercise simulated a bare base set up of all facets of communication needed for wartime and FEMA-related disasters.
Some of the communication assets made available by the 143rd to exercise participants included NIPRNet and SIPRNet (secured communications systems), DSN (Defense Switched Network) and commercial telephone, air-to-ground radios, land mobile radios (LMRs) and repeaters and global broadcast systems.
â€œWe are going to provide communication for all the elements coming to the base,â€ said Siau before the exercise began. The 143rd serviced nearly 3,000 military members at Volk Field alone.
Siau added that in providing communication for Patriot â€˜08, 143rd members trained in an environment that cannot be replicated at their home station in Washington state due to cost and space constraints.
â€œWe have a few firsts for the Washington Air National Guard in that we were able to set up our new GMT satellite terminal (Global Media Satellite Terminal) and put our new LMRs and repeaters into the field,â€ he said. â€œWe were very proud of that.â€
â€œAdditionally, we were able to work with the Kentucky National Guard Joint Incident Site Communication Capability (JISCC) and Army National Guard SMART-T hubs (Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical-Terminal) to see if their systems and our systems can integrate if needed in a FEMA-type incident,â€ said Siau.
Army Master Sgt. John Caudle, Kentucky Joint Force Headquarters, emphasized how their JISCC components would work with other military assets during a homeland crisis.
â€œWe are to provide communication ability, whether it is Internet or radio, for the incident site commanders to be able talk to whoever they need to talk to, whether it be the fire chief, police chief or governor,â€ said Caudle.
Caudle said his unit would set up and establish communications with Air National Guard assets at Volk, and then move to Fort McCoy to see if they could re-establish communications. He added that the training was made easier due to the helping hand of units at Volk.
â€œWe have been helping each other. We are kind of short on manpower for one thing, and so they have pitched in and helped get everything set,â€ said Caudle, who was assisted by a small contingency from the 264th CBCS, Peoria, Ill., who helped him link up with the 143rd. â€œWeâ€™ve had a great working relationship.â€
Senior Master Sgt. Douglas Turner, 264th superintendent, called the work between units providing communications infrastructure to the exercise outstanding.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter whether youâ€™re Army or Air Force. We are going to work together to get it done,â€ said Turner.
The Pennsylvania 271st CBCSâ€™s main mission at Fort McCoy focused on the Georgia Army National Guard.
â€œWe are providing tactical communications for the 48th Infantry Brigade. Itâ€™s training right now to go to Afghanistan in early 2009,â€ said Capt. Joseph Sullivan of the 271st, adding that they are benefiting from working with real customers for their annual training. â€œIt lets us work in a joint environment with the Army, and nowadays the Army and Air Force work together in the same mission, and weâ€™re looking for those opportunities.â€
The 48th IB also welcomed the opportunity to find out about their own communication abilities in a real-world environment before deploying to Afghanistan.
Capt. Olinka Tomlinson, a 48th IB Headquarters communications officer, said that they are trouble-shooting their communications and trying to reduce setup time.
The constant feedback and updates by the 271st have been helpful, said Tomlinson, and thanked the unit for getting the 48thâ€™s network together.
Siau applauded the early efforts of 143rd members in setting up the communication infrastructure at Volk.
In the four days prior to the start of Patriot, an 18-person advanced echelon team (ADVON) that normally takes 30 people got all communications systems ready to go, said Siau.
One of the 143rd ADVON team members was Tech. Sgt. Rhonda Carp, a 143rd communications computer operator, who was instrumental in setting up and configuring the computer systems for the Patriot Network Control Center.
â€œIt was a lot of hard work,â€ said Carp. â€œIt took teamwork.â€
Siau also commended the teamwork of National Guard members at the exercise for their efforts in dual roles:
â€œAll of the Airmen that we brought here to Patriot are Citizen-Soldiers. They have other jobs â€¦ families and other responsibilities Monday through Friday. â€œ[Itâ€™s exceptional] that they can come together and bring their talents and experiences together to pull this off in a joint environment.â€