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Army JNN enters joint network.

Background

When 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Raider Combat Team was notified of its mission and area of responsibility in 2006 for the 2007 deployment, one thing was immediately apparent to the network planners--history would be made. For the first time in its relatively short operational life, the Joint Network Node would truly bridge the gap into joint operations.

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The mission of Bravo Company, 1-3 Brigade Troops Battalion was to integrate their JNN equipment into a primarily commercial, existing network which bridged into the Marine Deployable Ku Band Earth Terminal Hubs in Al Asad and Fallujah. From a planning perspective, this required extensive reprogramming of the routers and switches on both Joint Network Nodes in the company, as well as the six command post nodes within the brigade.

The brigade's Area of Responsibility during Operation Iraqi Freedom V was within Area of Operations Topeka. Specifically the brigade assumed command and control for the city of Ramadi and surrounding province of Anbar, Iraq. This region fell under the Multi-National Force--West control, which was predominately Marines. This marked the first time an Army brigade, with the Joint Network Node as its communications package, would be the maneuver commander for a joint force [A Company, 141 Signal Battalion from 1st Armor Division was previously in Ramadi, but used the Node Center and Small Extension Nodes to provide command and control].

This article provides an overview of the operational phases under which Bravo Company functioned. They are: planning, programming, employment, management, forward deployment, and retrograding. Each is significantly disparate in its support or management needs as to warrant an in-depth look.

Planning

While the maneuver commander would be Army, the parent network the JNN would integrate into was to be Marine. Bravo Company, 1-3 BTB's JNNs would be linking into the Marine DKET hubs in Al Asad and Fallujah, rather than the traditional unit hub nodes used by the 3rd Infantry Division. The systems are similar, but differ in the protocols used. When creating its routing standards, the Army chose to use OSPF as the standard routing protocol during the tactical high speed data network upgrade of mobile subscriber equipment. All Army routing is predicated on the use of open, shortest path first protocols, which is a non-vendor specific solution. This is a great concept when backwards compatibility is required, as any router is able to translate and operate with the standard.

Marines, on the other hand, use Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol, a Cisco[TM] proprietary method of routing data between two systems. The benefit of this is it is much simpler to operate, knowing all systems in the network are using that same protocol, and it uses less overhead; the downside is that all routing systems integrated into the network must be Cisco brand.

Although it is possible to layer these protocols over one another on a Cisco router, this is not the best practice, because it will raise the latency between switches due to the increased traffic overhead. Each routing protocol in use adds to the overhead of that connection link, which then degrades the bandwidth available for actual traffic. One option considered called for establishment of a translation router between the two networks. This would have allowed the Army equipment to operate independently of the Marine network, using its standard OSPF protocols, with a bridge into the hub through the translator. The translator would effectively connect the two networks through a single link, allowing data to pass between each independently. The advantages of this solution were the ability to keep the OSPF protocols intact on the Army systems, and still link up with the Marine equipment. However, this created a single point of failure into the network (logically speaking), and it was decided instead to migrate the Army equipment from OSPF to EIGRP. The benefit realized in doing so would be reduced routing metrics, as each system would be able to independently arrive at the best route based on data gathered from its surrounding nodes. EIGRP is designed for low overhead in Cisco-specific networks, allowing greater throughput of actual data.

Knowing the need to integrate with the Marine hub, Bravo Company liaised with the Marines at Camp LeJeune, N.C., and coordinated joint network training prior to the actual deployment, to ensure our network cell was able to effect the transition to the Marine EIGRP network routing. CWO3 Michael Rivera, SSG David Sizemore and SSG Kevin Hinds were chosen to attend the training, and formed the hub of the Network Operations cell within our signal company (later complemented by SSG Nakkisha Streat, and SGT Crystal Austin-Wong). This weeklong face-to-face meeting was an integral step in ensuring the seamless transition of the JNN into the Marine network, as it allowed our planners to meet with their Marine counterparts and establish a working relationship before arriving in-country, laying the groundwork for successful interaction later during the deployment.

Programming

Compounding the difficulty of the transition was the fact that during the Brigade's Mission Readiness Exercise prior to final deployment, validation would have to be conducted using the Army's 3ID unit hub node and it's accompanying OSPF protocols. In a sense, while the equipment hardware would be certified as being mission ready, the actual routing protocols were not validated, because of the EIGRP/ OSPF disparity. This was recognized as an acceptable risk, due to the lead time allowed for reprogramming in Iraq. Prior to reprogramming, the 3ID JNN's bridged into the 82nd Airborne's Hub Node at Victory Base, Iraq. Network planners allowed for a 90 to 120 day overlap before bridging solely into the Marine DKET network.

The migration plan called for a graded transition from the Army's network to the Marine. During this time, one JNN set up with a link to the Army hub, and the other to the Marine DKET in Fallujah. Simultaneous with the kinetic operations cycle the brigade was undergoing, members of each Command Post Node, along with CW3 Rivera's team, worked to reprogram the CPN routers to use EIGRP. Over a ten day period, each CPN was brought off of the Army network, and reprogrammed to use EIGRP and brought back online and validated into the Marine network.

Although physically right next to one another, a CPN to CPN call processed from an Army CPN to one of the CPNs on the Marine network would have gone from the CPN to a satellite, back down to the Army hub, bridged through the STEP site into the Marine network, back up to a satellite, and down to the Marine-programmed CPN. While there was increased latency with the additional satellite transmissions, this method allowed the networks to autonomously determine the best routing path rather than requiring a single translation router for all data to pass through.

Employing

Before Bravo Company's arrival, the Ramadi network consisted of one Promina 800 as a data nexus and two Redcomm analog voice switches; both data and voice centers were split into two sites to increase survivability, with fiber interconnectivity between them. Local analog calls and Local Area Networks traffic were routed through the lowest-cost path to the destination node. Trunk calls, Voice Over Secure Internet Protocol, and external Non-secure Internet Protocol Routers/ Secure Intrnet Protocol Router data ultimately passed through the southern Technical Control Facility, where it was routed out through the Promina. Distant end connections were provided through an lightweight multi-band satellite terminal, Video Storage Wide Area Network, Logistics Support Wide Area Network and a TRC 170 troposphere scatter shot. Line of sight connectivity through A/141's Node Center to the local System Evaluation Networks extended the network to areas unreachable by standard wire or fiber connections.

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With the arrival of the Joint Network Node, the Southern TCF gained a high-speed FDMA satellite connection, increasing the amount of throughput the network could handle to external links. This link was provided by the JNN satellite trailer, which then connected through the TCF Promina. Doctrinally, the JNN should have had the KU satellite for itself, with the JNN being the primary assemblage in the network for data routing. Due to B Company augmenting an existing commercial network, it was necessary to bring the KU shot into the TCF, then to the JNN, rather than the normal method. Adding the FDMA shot significantly increased the amount of available outgoing bandwidth in Ramadi. This approach was deemed the most effective given the SASO mission of the company, as it allowed for greater versatility in the network--the TCF itself could determine the best routing path for external traffic, allowing less latency in the network.

The initial plan called for the Northern TCF to receive the second JNN's FDMA shot, but due to a lack of open transponders on the KU satellite, it was not possible. The northern JNN instead created a line of sight FDMA link between itself and the southern TCF using HCLOS shelters, allowing for high speed data transactions between the two, reducing demand on the local network. In addition to this high-speed (4MB) link, both JNN's also operated in a TDMA satellite mesh, linking each of the CPNs. All six CPN's routed primarily through the northern JNN before entering the Ramadi network, with the southern JNN as a secondary entry point. External connections were terminated at Al Asad (primary) and Fallujah (secondary).

Routing metrics were such that individual packets determined the most effective method out, which could vary depending on type of media and congestion on the network. In all cases, highest quality of service was reserved for the SIPR voice and data connectivity to the CPNs and external sites, ensuring that maneuver commanders were able to maintain sufficient communication with the Brigade commander.

Over time in Ramadi, the mission posture of the camp changed. Small outposts, security stations and patrol bases were set up within the city as hot spots were identified, allowing quicker response to insurgent activity as it developed. These sites, once set up, became permanent or semi-permanent in nature (with Iraqi Police, Iraqi Army, or U.S. Military personnel occupying them on a random [but predetermined] basis) to keep the insurgents off balance. With their creation, the need arose for reliable communications at these sites. A combination of Marine equipment--WPPLs and MRC-142 (equivalent in capability to a SEN, but not mounted on a vehicle)--and Army LOS data packages (similar to the MRC 142) were set up at these locations. The WPPLs and MRC-142's were terminated at either the north or south TCF, as determined by terrain and location of the distant end. The LOS data packages--six in all--were connected into the Ramadi network through the JNN LOS's. By the time Bravo company redeployed, over 40 external links were terminated at Camp Ramadi, providing secure voice and data communications over a 12,000 square kilometer area.

Managing

All network management was controlled through the Company Network Operations cell. While each JNN (and the distant end CPNs) had operators who maintained awareness of their piece of the network, the NetOps cell served as a data nexus for all control issues. When mandatory router upgrades, routing path changes, and other issues were sent to the company, they were integrated into the subordinate sites in a controlled manner. This allowed for graduated updates to non-critical equipment, and immediate push-outs for time sensitive changes. All sites, including NetOps, the JNNs, the TCFs, and the distant end CPNs, worked on 24-hour operational cycles in order to ensure maximum efficacy of the network. This tempo was sustained throughout the 15 month deployment, with no degradation during R&R leave or other operational requirements.

The NetOps group was the sole point of contact to the Marine Command and Control Cell, which operated the next higher network. All activities on our network were input into their database for continuity tracking, as well as to ease communications with adjacent units when planned outages were occurring. This worked well from the ground-up perspective, in that NetOps proactively reported all activities affecting the local network. The reverse was also supposed to be true, but often activities which affected our external paths were not pushed down to NetOps; it would not be known about an outage until after it began, and only then by NetOps calling MCCC to receive the information.

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As the network footprint changed over the course of the deployment, initial IP address allocations became unwieldy and required reconfiguration. Constantly over our tenure in Iraq, IP addresses were reallocated and subnets reconfigured. As units pulled out for redeployment, their subnets were unused. The NetOps cell would reallocate those IPs into more usable configurations for the current network before reassigning. This efficient reuse plan allowed forward portability without compromising existing networks, and was only possible by the NetOps cell thinking proactively about future network topology and acting quickly to maximize the benefits of freed addresses from departing units.

Forward deployment

Bravo Company's mission is: deploy, install, operate, and maintain the Brigade's command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance network. It establishes net works that support Brigade operations and integrate with the Division Army Force, Joint Task Force, or theater networks.

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Doctrinally, the company has two Joint Network Nodes to support two command posts (CP1 and CP2), which under MSE would have been the TAC and TOC. This doctrine was validated in 2007 when 1BCT deployed its CP2 slice to a forward operating base for a 39-day combat mission. The company's northern JNN was detached from the Ramadi network, with all external links it was receiving rerouted dynamically to the southern JNN as soon as it pulled from the network. While it was en route to the forward location, the in-system CPNs were reprogrammed to see the forward JNN as a secondary path rather than primary, because it would not have a FDMA connection and therefore quality of service from it would be degraded. In a standalone configuration, a JNN usually provides both TDMA and FDMA connectivity; due to the satellite saturation in Iraq this was not possible, which reduced the capabilities of the forward JNN. By limiting CPN traffic to that JNN, no degradation of services was apparent to the maneuver and support battalions.

The forward JNN was able to seamlessly link its local subscribers back to the Ramadi network and other outside elements without noticeable attrition; SIPR voice and data were a priority on the network and functioned superbly. Due to the limited available bandwidth, NIPR data and voice were limited in quality but not to such an extent as to be unusable.

Throughout the time of the forward deployment, the command post was able to maintain C2 of its battlespace using the capabilities provided by the JNN. Streaming video, UAV feeds, fire and counter-fire support, secure voice and data were all maintained with no degradation over the TDMA link. The maneuver commander was able to direct combat operations from the forward position, ultimately reducing the insurgent threat within the area of operations.

Retrograding

Long before the company began its relief in place, the planning process was begun to effect its replacement. It was known that a like unit would not be replacing the company, and its capabilities would likely be less. In order to ensure a smooth transition without degrading the communication paths provided by the company's presence, the company began additional Ramadi LAN upgrades. The north TCF received a Promina 800 to serve in lieu of the JNN which had been there, as well as a LMST satellite shot to increase external bandwidth from Ramadi.

These systems were in place and ready to go before the RIP began. As units began replacing the outlying elements at the CPNs, Marine WPPLs were established on a one-for-one basis to relieve the CPNs. The CPN requires a JNN or Unit Hub Node to integrate it into a network, so was not able to remain once the JNN's were pulled out of system. The north side JNN ceased its services, with all CPN and LOS data packages routing to the south JNN only, allowing early recovery of the first JNN.

Once all CPNs had been replaced with WPPL links, the CPNs retrograded to Ramadi. With the cessation of the last CPN transmission, the company's final JNN was able to shut down. This freed a transponder on the KU satellite for the new north TCF LMST to use, effectively removing the company's signal assets from the picture with no loss of capability to Ramadi or its external connections.

Prior to the company's retrograde, a microwave tower was built on Ramadi to accommodate two high bandwidth antennae, allowing two 8 MB line of sight paths to Al Assad and Fallujah, which became the primary path out.

Lessons Learned

The mission of Bravo Company to provide C2 to the maneuver commander for AO Topeka was a success. In departing, the system left behind was more robust than the one the company fell in on, and plans for improving the backbone were in place to be acted upon by the Marine and Joint Task Force Headquarters contingents replacing the company. As with any mission, there were areas on which to improve. Among them:

* MOS Training: Soldiers slotted by Human Resource Command were sent from cross-levelled MOSs, and were sufficient to count as filling a specific slot in terms of readiness for Unit Status Reporting. As an example, Soldiers with MOS 25F were assigned to the company, which has only one 25F billet (SMART-T operator), and counted against the 25N allocations. While these Soldiers worked in the 25N position for more than a year, while deployed, they were unable to compete for promotions in that MOS, and effectively bottlenecked --unable to attend schooling due to being deployed, and unable to gain promotion in an MOS undergoing drawdown during the transition to Joint Network Transport Capability. If you are in a JNN unit and deploying, utmost attention should be taken to ensure your Soldiers are qualified for the MOS to which they are slotted, rather than "compatible" for that MOS.

* Fiber-optic competence was a must in the predominately commercial network our company operated. Although the company MTO&E calls for four 25L Soldiers, none are required to be BIC or fiber trained. This created a need for on-the-fly training while performing critical repairs to the local network backbone. A better approach would be to ensure at least one Soldier in the company, preferably more (all the 25Ls if possible), is qualified with fiber-optic cable splicing and repair. The Basic Installer Course at Fort Huachuca is a great solution for this.

* The majority of communications requirements in Iraq are of the Sustainment and Support Operations variety rather than combat-kinetic. As such, one should approach preparation for deployment to this theater with that mindset. While fusion splicers, cable conduits, and reels of multi- and single-mode fiber optic are not part of a tactical unit's standard issue, they (and Soldiers who know how to use them) are integral to a sustainment mission. The primary mission of the signal company (provide maneuver communications) should never be dismissed, but proactively planning for foreseen ancillary missions is a good step to take when the greater resources available in the United States are present. As once told to the author, "Better to have and not need than to need and not have."

* The Army deploys its systems with tactical generators. While this is required for communications on the move, serious thought should be given when entering a known SASO mission to acquiring commercial power generation. Although Kellogg, Brown and Root provided electrical services to buildings on the camp, they could not or would not allow the military systems to connect to them, placing an unnecessary strain on the unit's tactical generators.

* Heat is an enemy as much as insurgents are. In the Iraqi summertime, heat took a toll on the tactical systems, requiring additional cooling measures to be emplaced. On all CPNs and the JNN KU satellite trailers, commercial air conditioners were added to augment the cooling process, lest the systems overheat. One should plan for the air conditioners to break, and have emergency solutions in place to counter the loss. In our company, each JNN air conditioner, both JNN KU air conditioners, and the CPN onboard air conditioner broke down during the high heat of the Iraqi summer (where ambient air temperatures exceeded 120 degrees at times). Failing to plan for the heat is planning to fail. We added a total of four additional snowbird air conditioners (the ones on the JNN) to our organizational property, as a spare and a backup: since the systems are under warranty, work on a JNN air conditioner had to be sent to the GD support site, which took as long as 90 days before being returned.

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ACRONYM QUICKSCAN

AO--area of operations

BBN--Baseband Node

BIC--Basic Installer Course

BTB--Brigade Troops Battalion

C2--command and control

C4ISR--command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

CPN--Command Post Node

DKET--Deployable KU Band Earth Terminal

EIGRP--Enhanced Interior Gateway Routing Protocol

FDMA--Frequency Division Multiple Access

HCLOS--High Capacity Line-of-Sight

HRC--Human Resources Command

JNN--Joint Network Node

JNTC--Joint Network Transport Capability

LMST--Lightweight Multiband Satellite Terminal

LOS--line-of-sight

LSWAN--Logistics Support Wide Area Network

NIPR--Non-secure Internet Routing Protocol

OSPF--open shortest path first

SASO--Sustainment and Support Operations

SIPR--Secure Internet Routing Protocol

SMART-T--Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal

STEP--Strategic Tactical Entry Point

TMDA--Time Division Multiple Access

THSDN--Tactical High-Speed Data Network

UHN--Unit Hub Node

VOSIP--Voice Over Secure Internet Protocol

VSWAN--Video Storage Wide Area Network

WPPL--Wireless Point-to-Point Link

1LT Boileau is currently the executive officer of B Company, 1-3 Brigade Troops Battalion. He is an honor graduate of the Battlefield Spectrum Manager's course and served as the lead element of Force Modernization in 5th Signal Command during the prefielding phase of the JNN.
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Author:Boileau, Ryan C.
Publication:Army Communicator
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Sep 22, 2008
Words:3618
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