Army National Guard prepares for hurricane season with 'Connect Army Logisticians' comms.
To be prepared, the National Guard Bureau's Army Logistics Division, in coordination with the Florida Army National Guard, hosted an exercise in Orlando from May 6 to May 21 in which National Guard Soldiers from several hurricane-prone states--Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Texas--and the Virgin Islands were trained in using logistics automation and network equipment that could help their relief efforts.
The participants in the exercise, mostly enlisted Soldiers and field grade officers who had been involved in support after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, trained with the same systems that compose the Army G4's 'Connect Army Logisticians' initiative: The Movement Tracking System--a position navigation system that provides in-transit visibility and communications with logistics convoys; the Battle Command Sustainment Support System-3--the Army's tactical logistics command and control data system; and the Combat Service Support satellite communications system--which provides Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network and Voice Over Internet Protocol access via CSS Very Small Aperture Terminals, which are wirelessly connected to a local or wide area network via the CSS Automated Information Systems Interface.
The MTS and CSS SATCOM systems are products of the Army's Program Executive Office, Enterprise Information Systems and the BCS3 is a product of the Program Executive Office, Command, Control and Communications Tactical.
"One of the lessons learned in Hurricane Katrina were that the comms were not what they should be," said MAJ Robin Steffan, deputy chief of the National Guard Bureau Logistics Division's Logistics Management Branch. "We want to develop a proof of concept. We plan to come up with a straw SOP standard operating procedure) here."
MAJ Richard Elam, Deputy J4 for the Florida Army National Guard, said this exercise would help with more than just hurricane relief efforts.
"What about another 9-11?" asked Elam. "The rules change for hurricane relief and other disasters. We're trying to set up TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) for each. We plan to set up a STAMIS (Standard Army Management Information Systems) gunnery, to find out, can we send a requisition downrange?"
Steffan noted that CSS VSAT and CAISI are both in the top 25 of the National Guard Bureau's prioritized equipment list for HLD/DSCA Homeland Defense/Defense Support to Civil Authorities). PEO EIS' Project Manager, Defense Communications and Army Transmission Systems' Product Manager, Defense Wide Transmission Systems sent CSS SATCOM fielding team members Dan Burke, Kenny Scott, and Rick Ackerley and support engineer Tommie Horton, along with four CSS VSATs, to the exercise to conduct new equipment training and to field the CSS VSATs to four of the National Guard units, with CAISI training and equipment issue to follow later in the exercise. First, the fielding team did classroom work with the Soldiers, teaching them how the system evolved and how to set up and operate it. Then, they broke Soldiers into four groups, assisting each group as they set up their CSS VSAT, found a satellite, and then tore the unit down and packed it back into its four transit cases. Upon completion of the training, the team issued the CSS VSATS to National Guard units of Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Texas. Was the training helpful?
"Definitely," said SFC Gene Jordan of the 449th Aviation Group, North Carolina National Guard. "Especially the hands-on part--I find I learn better that way."
Jordan added that when he and his group got their CSS VSAT set up, the first thing he did was to pull up Army Knowledge Online and send an e-mail to his master sergeant back in North Carolina. "I told him this was good, it will help us," Jordan said.
"The Soldiers loved the training," said Steffan, adding that MTS will be fielded to National Guard units later in the summer, and that BCS3 is being purchased with training to follow.
Collaboration with Army G4 According to Steffan, the idea for the exercise grew out of discussions she had with LTC Forrest Burke of the Army G4 (Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics) when both attended a logistics management seminar in early April. Burke said the thought process was to bring all of the "enablers" together so they could understand what's needed to exchange logistics information.
"This exercise is a welcome and necessary activity," said Burke. Many National Guard units and Soldiers don't use and operate their systems everyday--they have civilian technicians that might, but the Soldiers don't."
Burke explained that as a force rotates into a new theater, there are typically two "capstone event" logistics exercises in which they participate. First, before they depart for theater, they conduct a maneuver readiness exercise, and second, after they arrive in theater, is RSOI reception, staging, onward movement, and integration), in which they stage a STAMIS gunnery.
"During the STAMIS gunnery, the unit puts all of their logistics systems together and 'test fire' the engines to make sure all engines are firing," explained Burke. "Besides providing that STAMIS gunnery experience for the National Guard units, the exercise also will help units in forging relationships with National Guard units of other states--which is a good thing, because disasters don't pick one state."
Another purpose of the exercise, according to Steffan, was to come to grips with the differences between using these systems in the continental United States vs. outside of the continental United States.
"It (these systems) worked in theater, but how will it work in CONUS in support of the goals of the governors?" asked Steffan.
According to Burke said, the difference is two-fold in using these systems in CONUS vs. OCONUS. First, he said, in OCONUS, operations are more focused with clearly defined supply lines, while CONUS relief operations are a lot more "permeable."
"There's a lot more dispersion of forces in CONUS, without clearly defined supply lines," Burke said.
Second, he said, there is less of an ability to interrogate locations of and information about materiel with radio frequency identification technology in CONUS than in OCONUS.
"In OCONUS, it may take a year or two into an operation, but there is a build-out of RFID in ports, staging areas, and so on--you don't have that latitude in America," said Burke. "BCS3, for instance, doesn't have a good view of road networks and staging areas here."
Steffan recounted how Soldiers repeatedly reported that outside agencies dropped off untagged equipment and supplies at Regional Support Areas during disaster relief efforts.
"There is no guarantee that carriers coming from other states or agencies will have tags," said Steffan. "If the Soldiers have no ability to tag the shipment, or the vehicles carrying the shipment to the next destination, they have no automated means of inventory or shipment control. Many times the Soldiers have no means of communicating with the next destination on the supply route as communications have not been re-established telephonically, electronically. Also, cell phone communications are not always available, or soldiers do not have access to satellite phones.
Therefore, shipments may need to be re-inventoried, and manually re-designated at each leg of the journey."
Another issue the National Guard faces in providing relief to CONUS disasters, such as hurricanes, is the availability of sufficient number of systems. For instance, while modular force units such as the 3rd Infantry Division have systems such as CSS VSAT and CAISI at the company level, National Guard units only have enough systems to have these at the battalion level. Burke and Steffan acknowledge this is a funding issue, and Burke added that the Army G4 is in the process of building a pool of equipment to issue to guard units that are mobilizing.
"The pool is to give Army Guard units an area to draw from in case they are deployed," said Steffan, "or they need to draw it to support HLD/DSCA (Homeland Defense/Defense Support to Civil Authorities).
Meanwhile, officials at the National Guard Bureau are doing all they can to equip their units--and equip them in a timely fashion.
"The equipment all compliments each other," said Steffan. "Consider them to be pierces of a recipe. You can't bake the cake without the eggs and the flour and the shortening. To buy one item and not the other two does no good. If spaced out, by the time you get the flour and shortening purchased, the eggs may have gone bad."
The National Guard Bureau is working to be proactive in their response to any calls for support during the 2006 hurricane season.
The Florida exercise was a step in that direction, and Steffan rated the support from the PM community as wonderful."
"They (the PMs) supported us fully in the Florida exercise. If they had the money (funding) coming in, am sure they would support us fully in our fielding goals."
"The good news story here," Elam said, "is the partnership between the PMs, the National Guard Bureau and the states, all coming together to conduct this exercise. The PMs are all on board, supporting this, getting us systems and training so we can better respond to another Katrina-like incident."
3ID--3rd Infantry Division AKO--Army Knowledge Online BCS3--Battle Command Sustainment Support System-3 CONUS--Continental United States CSS SATCOM--Combat Service Support satellite communications DSCA--Defense Support to Civil Authorities HLD--Homeland Defense MTS--Movement Tracking System NIPERNET--Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network OCONUS--Outside the Continental United States PMs--Project Managers VoIP--Voice Over Internet Protocol VSAT--Very Small Aperture Terminals CAISI--CSS Automated Information Systems Interface NET--new equipment training PEO EIS--Program Executive Office, Enterprise Information Systems PEO C3T--Program Executive Office, Command, Control and Communications Tactical PM DCATS--Project Manager, Defense Communications and Army Transmission Systems PM DWTS--Product Manager, Defense Wide Transmission Systems RFID--radio frequency identification RSA--Regional Support Areas
Mr. Larsen is a public affairs officer with Project Manager, Defense Communications and Army Transmission Systems, Fort Monmouth, N.J. Larsen has more than 20 years experience writing about Army systems.
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|Title Annotation:||emergency preparedness training to be given to soldiers|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2006|
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