Communications in support of fight to secure Baghdad.
When the 1st Cavalry Division was notified for deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2006-08, they were instructed to execute a relief-in-place with the 4th Infantry Division (M). There was nothing out of the ordinary about the change over. The irony of the situation came when the unit was told to leave the vast majority of their command and control equipment at home station and fall in on 4ID's equipment. This plan presented several very unique challenges and had never been executed to this extent while a division was in contact.
With only five months remaining till the actual RIP/transfer of authority, the division G6 assembled a command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence planning team to document all the details of the swap. The team was to look at all items ranging from FM radios to Joint Network Nodes. The first cut of the plan came while 1st Cavalry Division was in the middle of their Mission Readiness Exercise. Every C4I system within the division had been cross walked with 4ID's C4I equipment. This was accomplished to identify compatibility and interoperability issues. Each system was severely scrutinized for hardware, software, and firmware compatibility.
Executing the upper and lower tactical Internet RIP
The final plan required 1st Cavalry Division to deploy with its organic upper tactical Internet equipment, but to fall in on 4th Infantry Division's lower tactical Internet equipment in theater. We received our final "go to war" data product for all of these systems just a few weeks prior to deploying which meant there was little time to upgrade all of the UTI & LTI hard drives prior to the transfer of authority. The G6 determined the highest risk to the UTI & LTI RIP was ensuring the division deployed with the right software on the hard drives. And, once in theater, the units could rapidly as possible upgrade the Force XXI Battle Command, brigade-and-below hard drives in the Theater Provided Equipment platforms.
Each BCT, with the exception of 3BCT 1CD, would receive 4ID's FBCB2 hardware in theater. Our LTI deployment strategy employed a hard drive swap to expedite the upgrade process in theater. This swap was limited to the approximately 1,000 terrestrial FBCB2s within the two divisions. We deployed with their hard drives already loaded with the most recent data product. Once the RIP began, the 4ID units would remove their hard drives allowing our units to immediately repopulate with the hard drives from home station. The 4ID units would then redeploy with their hard drives and use them in the systems we left at Fort Hood. This strategy did not affect the TPE platforms with Blue Force Tracking versions of FBCB2. Our division was not equipped with BFT kits prior to deployment. The swap strategy did not address the upgrade of A3 Bradleys in theater. They had to be re-imaged in country because there were no compatible hard drives available in Continental United States due to their unique form factor.
To reduce risk while reimaging, we enlisted the support of the project managers. The units uploaded the removable memory cartridges for the FBCB2 systems in their SEP tanks home station with PM oversight. We turned in our FBCB2 hard drives from the non-embedded platforms (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, Operation Desert Storm Bradleys and thin skin armor platforms) to PM FBCB2. The PM verified and shipped the approximately 1,000 FBCB2 hard drives and RMCs to theater.
Units developed plans to reimage the BFTs and TPE hard drives within a two week window. PM FBCB2 supported the units by providing additional hard drive duplicators to increase the throughput.
The swap plan was executed during the left seat/right seat ride. This was high risk because the outgoing units were still executing on going operations. To avoid fratricide and to ensure both 4ID and 1CD icons appeared on a platform's display, we stood up our own enhanced position location and reporting system network in parallel with the 4th ID's network to allow both sets of terrestrial based FBCB2 systems to function in the same area of operations. Both 4ID and our division maintained a general routing encapsulation "tunnel" between the divisions UTI and the PM's network operation center. This ensured the cross-feed of EPLRS and BFT traffic between the two divisions.
The end state took roughly three weeks to achieve. But when units departed their forward operating base, they were all on the same baseline application and database. They could also transmit limited "C2" data between BFT and EPLRS based FBCB2, which was an Army "first" for the two different types of FBCB2 systems.
The relief-in-place strategy for the Army Battle Command Systems residing on the MND-B's UTI was a straightforward task. It entailed replacing the tactical local area networks in use by the HQ and each 4ID BCT a corresponding 1CD system. However, the task was not without risk. We also had a requirement to re-image our ABCS systems. With assistance from the central technical support facility, we were able to re-image more than 400 ABCS hard drives in time to hand carry the equipment to theater. Once in theater, we set up our own tactical internet, added the ABCS hardware, and removed the 4ID ABCS suite without interrupting the commander's ability to perform his C2 mission. These tasks were executed by representatives from CTSF and the digital PMs. There were no disruptions to ongoing operations, which in the end, was the true measure of success.
Information Systems /Data Services
A big success story for OIF 06/ 08 is the modular construct which provides each brigade an autonomous communication architecture with both data and network capabilities. The major benefits include enhancing the communications capabilities for the brigade combat team commander and supporting the MNF-I commander's plan to surge brigades into theater. The construct provides the flexibility and capabilities to stand up data services from any location on the battlefield. The brigade autonomous communications architecture allows communications to keep pace with the brigade's movement in both high intensity conflicts and stationary security operations. The strategic signal infrastructure is incapable of meeting the short-term requirements for remotely dispersed units that are normally isolated because of location and distance from their FOB architecture. The brigade S6 is equipped to plug and play from any location within theater. As BCTs surge into theater, they can have their network and domains operational within hours as opposed to days or weeks.
Modularity has given the BCT commanders more options and overall enhanced the capabilities of the Signal Regiment. Most of the "surge" BCTs have deployed to isolated locations where strategic signal has no footprint. As the mission changes, each BCT can control how they react to change internally and can affect the outcome based on the signal capabilities within their formation. Under modularity, BCT commanders are making strategic decisions that two and three star generals previously made.
The benefits of BCTs autonomous forests/domains have enhanced command and control applications within the unit and division. It provided uninhibited communication for the brigade and division commanders. The unit can now display a common operating picture with significant activities and events viewable at all echelons. The primary tool used by MND-B at the division, brigade, and battalion is command post of the future. CPOF allows the commander at the brigade and battalion echelon within the division AOR to collaborate, share, and synchronize information in almost real time. The CPOF data products include icons that are placed on a map by battle captains and then viewed by other units to gain situational awareness.
MND-B uses CPOF for more than a collaboration tool. It is the command and control tool used by the commanding general. We do not employ another ABCS system that has a two or three star officer sitting behind its screen giving direction and intent. One of the limitations that we were presented with was the number of simultaneous clients the repository can accept. Another was the ability to seamlessly share information between divisions without interrupting service to the current architecture.
3ID Headquarters arrived and we operated both divisions on one repository which contained in excess of 340 accounts. This solution worked well and 3ID benefited from the pre-existing products on the repository. Although the CPOF PM suggested that we do not exceed 200 as the maximum number of clients on the Ventrillo, we developed a plan to establish a Ventrillo server at each brigade. The ability to localize Ventrillo traffic and provide them the capability to manage their own command and control system has enhanced operations and mission communications. The division has established a CPOF web viewer that also allows units to view the common operating picture and significant activities through the SIPRnet. Our current concern with CPOF is the limited number of systems on hand. Commanders and primary staff are the primary recipients which leaves other sections and soldiers without the opportunity to participate in the CPOF experience.
To alleviate the system short-age, we established Adobe Connect (formerly Breeze) servers at the division and brigades. The Adobe Connect server provided the non-CPOF users a forum to host meetings and collaboration sessions remotely throughout theater. MG Joseph Fil, our commander, used Adobe Connect to receive updates on reception, staging, onward movement and Integration from both Fort Hood and Iraq. The users of the server really like the ease of use and understand the choices that are offered through the application.
Each brigade hosts their own Adobe Connect server, which localizes the traffic and ensures the availability of access within their network in case of isolation.
Designing the network
At the division's RIP/transfer of authority, the span of control consisted of approximately 16 JNNs and 39 CPNs, representing eight BCTs in MND-B. Many of the line-of-sight links and all associated equipment had been passed from division to division for the last two Operation Iraqi Freedom rotations. We planned to establish a BCT network over a span of 15 days; in actuality, it only took about five days to integrate their assets. This short turnaround was a credit to the hard working JNN/CPN teams at each brigade that conducted rehearsals, walk throughs, and effective left seat/right seat rides during the RIP process. See Figure 1. (Below) Original MND-B Network.
Upon inheritance, we focused our efforts on improving the structure and redundancy in the network. The use of monitoring tools for collecting historical data allowed the NETOPS to determine which links were reliable enough to allow an increase in bandwidth. Since assuming of the network, we have engineered six 8MB links to connect our primary FOBs. We eliminated single points of failure by ensuring that every JNN had a minimum of two additional paths separate from their satellite connectivity. In most cases, fiber connectivity was already incorporated as an alternate communications path. Multiple LOS links per JNN allows flexibility for data flow throughout the network, thereby minimizing bottlenecks and failure points in the network. Since the network had grown slowly over the years, we found that new antenna field analysis was required to correct antennas that were shooting across each other. We reconstructed the placement of some antennas to optimize the antenna field, and to allow flexibility in planning for future links.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Surge of units
The surge plan that's commonly referred to as "Operation Fardh Al Qanoon" significantly increased the division footprint.
By late January, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division had closed on Baghdad. They were closely followed by 4th Brigade 1st Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. We entered each new month with the goal of integrating a new brigade into the network! The surge of a second division headquarters was directed, to correspond with the surge of new brigades and 3ID HQ was deployed to Baghdad as MND-Central. This surge of units in the area resulted in our HUB operating at full capacity, in addition to a couple brigades using adjacent HUBs for services. Prior to MND-C establishment, MND-B consisted of Division Main and 12 brigades.
Our standard for each integrated brigade was to provide the primary JNN FDMA bandwidth of 3088 Mbps and 2048 Mbps for the second JNN. Each BDE primary JNN that supported its headquarters was given a direct LOS link into the DMAIN's JNNs to ensure good communication between the division headquarters and the brigade headquarters. This was especially important for command post of the future's performance on the tactical network, due to its low latency and high bandwidth requirement for quality. In most cases, the brigade also received additional LOS links, connecting them in the LOS network ring for redundant and robust communications. For the surge brigades' arrival, each brigade TOC was fibered and a secondary fiber ring established for each JNTC assemblage locally for intra-brigade connectivity.
The surge of a second division headquarters required a split in the network. The brigades under the command and control of 3ID, also had their network cutover to the 3ID Unit Hub Node. This complex communications cutover involved the complete separation of the two UHN networks. All associated LOS links, Hub links and any fiber connectivity were cut from MND-B and transferred to MND-C. This was to prevent routing loops in the two Tier 2 networks.
The MND-B network currently covers over 5500km, spanning from Kalsu in the South, to north of Taji. It is the largest, most intricate division tactical network ever assembled, and currently services 10 combat brigades, two support brigades, and a division headquarters with Nonsecure Internet Protocol Router and Secure Internet Protocol Router services. At its peak, the network used two Unit Hub Nodes in order to support the 20 JNNs, and 55 CPNs that were in the MND-B network. The Victory UHN, run by 3rd Signal Brigade, supports four brigade's services, including five JNNs, due to hardware limitations in our UHN.
In addition to using JNTC assets, we rely heavily on additional communications assets. There are 36 LOS links in our network which support the network's redundancy, as well as many inner city outposts and security stations. LOS links are critical to establishing robust and high quality communications in the demanding tactical environment that is continually bridged to strategic assets. LOS connectivity is also a necessity for back up during bad weather which affects satellite connectivity to the UHN.
Though not part of the JNTC package, the MND-B network has incorporated AN-50s, which are commercial LOS radios which tunnel SIPR through the use of Tactical Local Area Network Encryptor. There are currently 15 sites that are supported through AN-50 radio shots that help us fill the operational requirements in MND-B. These radio systems were initially employed by 4ID and have been continued to be fielded throughout our division. They have been critical in meeting the demands for getting connectivity to various units as they pushed operations into the city. Most AN-50 links extend communications to the Joint Security Stations and Coalition Outposts that are occupied by battalion and below elements. See Figure 2. (Above) Current network.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Managing the network
Our NETOPS cell uses three different monitoring tools to provide continuous data polls of the network's health and to identify potential problems before they become major issues. This information is critical in managing the network. Our primary user interface for the division NETOPS is Simple Network Management Protocol. This tool provides us with colors representing the status of each assemblage and the network links between the assemblages. The SNMPc monitoring tool polls IP addresses of network assemblages to determine their operating status. Green represents an 'up' status, with red representing 'down'. Yellow and purple represent the link status in initialize and exchange, respectively indicating a 'hit' on the link, or cycling of the network. Red dots and lines are to be avoided at all costs. The SNMPc is the most viewed of all monitoring tools in the network.
Solarwinds is also a heavily used tool that assists us with network monitoring. Like SNMPc, Solarwinds polls devices in the network to determine their status. Solarwinds, however, is able to provide more in-depth information and historical analysis tools. Network controllers use this program for multiple means. A customized interface error report displays the errors taken during each hour. Bandwidth use, response time, packet loss, and interface error reports can be customized for historical data charts showing critical trends that help us troubleshoot and aid in our effort to continually improve the network. We use Solarwinds as the primary means for detailed analysis of link quality beyond the "up" or "down" status provided by the SNMPc program used on the network.
Our third tool is the network analysis module, which is designed to break down and analyze the traffic on the network. This is useful in seeing the kind of traffic that is being supported by the tactical network and the IPs that are drawing the most bandwidth. It can therefore be used to find offenders of large file downloads that pull too much bandwidth.
Aside from software, the NETOPS depends heavily on conference calls to conduct business. All brigade NETOPS and JNNs call into a conference daily during the division's battle update assessments and commander's update assessments, to ensure that we can reach all assemblages at a moments notice. This helps ensure communications aren't interrupted during these essential times. We also use conferences to conduct weekly S6 meetings that keep all MND-B signal officers abreast of any issues or major changes that are coming within the MND-B signal community. Lastly, conference calls are used during monthly COMSEC changeovers, to ensure all units "take all directions from the tower" when COMSEC is changed.
With the help of these various network monitoring tools, the NETOPS is often aware of outages before the parent unit notices a degradation of service. "Green" dots and lines are not enough to ensure success; healthy links are the overarching goal of the network controllers as they strive to provide the most effective service possible.
Supporting the Military Transition Teams, Special Police Transition Teams, and National Police Transition Teams
Transition teams are a crucial component of the plan to train and mentor Iraqi Forces to take control of the security situation in Iraq. These teams spend a great deal of time with their Iraqi counterparts and often live on Iraqi FOBs away from the typical U.S. support structure available on Coalition Force FOBs. The Multi-National Division--Baghdad controls over 100 transition teams at 27 different locations across our area of responsibility. These small teams present a unique challenge to the signal community in our efforts to extend secure and nonsecure data and voice services to each and every transition team in our AOR.
When we arrived in Baghdad and relieved the 4ID, we inherited a robust network which had extensions to every transition team FOB, and in 90 percent of the cases the teams could access data and voice from their own tactical operations centers. However, the surge in Coalition Forces in Baghdad has also brought in a surge of Iraqi forces and their partnered Transition Teams. The limited housing capacity on the inhabited FOBs in Baghdad forced these new units to base at new FOBs that had no existing communications structure. Our challenge was to reposition our JNTC and commercial line-of-sight assets to these new FOBs to meet the new communications requirements.
With this extension of our wide-area network, we still could not grant all requests for data access. We screened out transition teams' requests for service by mandating that each team or group of teams must maintain a 24 x 7 operations center to ensure the physical and information security of on-site communications equipment. We also mandated that battalion teams must co-locate and share communications resources with their brigade teams in a combined TOC.
While our initial focus was on providing data access to each and every TOC, we now realize that we cannot sustain that type of network access in an environment where units surge in and move around. We have shifted to an internet-cafe type of solution, where we place SIPR/ NIPR ports at one transition team and other transition teams living nearby have to travel to that cafe to access data. These guidelines have allowed us to continue providing data services to all of our transition teams.
Joint Security Stations/Coalition Out Posts
The Multi-National Division Baghdad became the focal point for integrating and extending NIPR/ SIPR data services down to Joint Security Stations and Coalition Outposts. These are squad/platoon/ company sized elements, lead by lieutenants and captains. This is a total paradigm shift from the way the signal community originally structured the JNTC support architecture. Dedicated communications support was never expected to go below battalion level. To meet the commander's intent of providing secure communications support to JSS/COPs, units moved their computers and phones from the JNTC network to the fiber infrastructure. This freed up CPNs to support the JSS/COP communications requirements. This solution has proven effective for the short term but the current trend of JSS/ COP growth will outpace the availability of JNTC assets in theater.
Baghdad is divided up into ten security districts with a combination of JSSs and COPs in each district. A key component of the current Baghdad security plan is the placement--rather than the projection--of forces at JSSs and COPs within these local municipalities. The forward placement of forces, however, has generated new requirements to provide SIPR, NIPR, and voice over Internet Protocol access to commanders and intelligence personnel at these remote sites.
The Baghdad security plan initially started off with 30 total JSSs and COPs in the Multi-National Division--Baghdad AOR. Over the past four months, the number of JSSs and COPs in MND-B has exploded to over 75 locations. We do not have the requirement to push data over long distances that other MNDs in Iraq have, we do have the issue of pushing data to these dozens of remote sites which do not have an inherent communications capability. The requests for data at these locations have caused us to drastically alter the focus of our communications planning.
To date, we have extended communications or have assets identified to extend communications to 44 forward locations in our AOR. Through all this, we still maintain assets providing data to BCT and battalion TOCs on our eight main bases. While we still have a shortfall of over 30 locations, we have already pushed well past the doctrinal limits of our signal assets.
We continue to work with our BCTs to cross-level equipment and source new solutions with the existing equipment that we have.
1CD--1st Cavalry Division
4ID--4th Infantry Division
ABCS--Army Battle Command Systems
AO--Area of Operation
AOR--Area of Responsibility
BCT--Brigade Combat Team
BFT--Blue Force Tracking
BUA--Battle Update Assessment
C2--Command and Control
C4I--Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence
CIS--Chief of Information Systems
CONUS--Continental United States
COP--Coalition Out Posts
CPOF--Command Post of the Future
CTSF--Central Technical Support Facility
CUA--Commander's Update Assessments
DMAIN--Division Main Command Post
EPLRS--Enhanced Position Location and Reporting System
FBCB2--Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade-and-Below
FDMA--Frequency Division Multiple Access
FOB--Forward Operating Base
GRE--General Routing Encapsulation
HMMWV--High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (aka humvee or hummer)
JNN--Joint Network Node
JNTC--Joint Network Transport Capability
JSS--Joint Security Stations
LAN--Local Area Network
LTI--Lower Tactical Internet
MiTT--Military Transition Teams
MRE--Mission Readiness Exercise
NIPR--Non-secure Internet Protocol
NOC--Network Operation Center
NPTT--National Police Transition Teams
ODS--Operation Desert Storm
OIF--Operation Iraqi Freedom
RIP--Relief in Place
RMC--Removable Memory Cartridges
RSOI--Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration
SIPR--Secure Internet Protocol
SNMPc--Simple Network Management Protocol
SPTT--Special Police Transition Teams
TACLANE--Tactical Local Area Network Encryptor
TOA--Transfer of Authority
TOC--Tactical Operations Centers
TPE--Theater Provided Equipment
UHN--Unit Hub Node
USFK--United States Forces Korea
UTI--Upper Tactical Internet
LTC Cotton, LTC Pollock, MAJ Riddle, MAJ Rimmer and CPT Hauben are all currently assigned to Multinational Division-Baghdad/1st Cavalry Division where they work in the G6 section on Camp Liberty, Iraq. LTC Cotton is the division G6 and was previously assigned as the USFK J6 operations division chief. LTC Pollock is the program executive office LNO assigned to 1st Cavalry Division. MAJ Riddle is the division automation management officer and was previously assigned as a brigade S6. MAJ Rimmer is the network operations officer in charge and has held the same position with 4th Infantry Division. CPT Hauben is the G6 plans officer and was previously assigned as a battalion S6.
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|Author:||Cotton, Sylvester; Pollock, John; Riddle, Brett; Rimmer, Lora; Hauben, Frank|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2007|
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