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Grecian Firebolt 2004 Connects With Signal Transformation.

FORT MEADE, Md., July 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Information dominance as it applies to Signal requires technological superiority, which is gained through the continuing transformation of Signal operations. At this year's annual U.S. Army Reserve Signal exercise, Grecian Firebolt 2004, more than 800 Soldiers in Signal units across the country experimented with new and different ways to get critical information to the warfighter in the battlefield.

The theme "Bridging the Gap with Technology" reflected the cutting edge initiatives testing people, equipment, and interconnectivity during the two- week exercise that wrapped up this past June. From its headquarters at Fort Meade, the U.S. Army Reserve 311th Theater Signal Command provided command and control for the Signal units in the field; planning, engineering, and managing the overall communications voice and data network.

"Grecian Firebolt is important to us from several different perspectives," said Maj. Gen. Edwin E. Spain III, commanding general of the 311th TSC. "It provides numerous growth opportunities for our soldiers to test their operational, tactical, technological, and leadership skills in a training environment. This experience allows our command to see the structures of the units we would actually take to war, and understand the uniqueness of an Active Component Brigade; a National Guard Brigade; a Reserve Brigade. Conversely, it's a learning experience for the units involved with us -- working with the operational tempo of a headquarters."

The Grecian Firebolt exercise provided Signal support for four other large-scale joint exercises based around the country, which included the Quartermaster Logistic Liquid Exercise (QLLEX) at Fort Dix, N.J., Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Devens, Mass., Golden Medic at Fort Gordon, Ga., Rio Lobo at Fort Bragg, and Joint Thunder with the South Dakota Army and Air National Guard.

For the 311th TSC, Grecian Firebolt tested three major initiatives expected to be key to the future of the unit and all of Army Signal; the Integrated Theater Signal Battalion concept, interconnectivity with Homeland Defense partners, and network operations (NETOPS).

Integrated Theater Signal Battalion (ITSB)

During Grecian Firebolt, the 311th TSC organized the units and technology at its Fort Meade headquarters to operate as an ITSB. This concept differs from the military's conventional Signal structure by integrating into a single unit traditionally separate Signal disciplines, such as cable and wire, switching, and satellite communications.

The pieces of an ITSB can be configured based on the requirements for specific operations, and quickly deployed to maintain network operations in a combat theater. The full ITSB can support up to three major headquarters, and at least 1,000 telephone subscribers, 500 computers, and 250 video teleconferencing capabilities.

The first of these units will be activated under the 311th TSC in 2005. "The technology has allowed us to move to this type of organization because it permits us to be 'scalable' to need," said Spain. "We can add, subtract, and move as the situation requires. The satellite communications teams, switching teams, TROPO site, cable and wire; we're taking these separate, distinct organizations and merging them into a smaller footprint."

Spain explained that the ITSB experiment was carefully observed during Grecian Firebolt. "We are preparing our soldiers for the ITSB and the new world they're moving into," said Spain. "The skills we practiced during this exercise translate into refining doctrine, training, technology, tactics, and procedures for the ITSB."

Homeland Defense

Each Grecian Firebolt since 9/11 has placed greater emphasis on strengthening working relationships with the military's Homeland Defense partners. The players this year included the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Army Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS), headquartered at the Network Enterprise Technology Command, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Although FEMA participates in exercises with higher military commands to test its National Emergency Response Plan, its interaction with the 311th TSC during the last three Grecian Firebolt exercises allows the agency to work out interoperability issues with its military partners. "We keep up with interconnectivity through these training scenarios," said Ozzie Baldwin, part of the FEMA Region 6 Mobile Emergency Response Support team. "They have allowed us to identify problems and solutions over the last several years."

With FEMA, the 311th TSC tested a portable, tactical digital switching system. The challenge during Grecian Firebolt was to integrate this system with military Signal equipment, which is transitioning from legacy technology.

The MARS participants in Grecian Firebolt provided the contingency backup to communications systems, and a passion for experimenting with technology. John Scoggin, MARS volunteer assistant coordinator of emergency operations, demonstrated a new twist to high frequency radio. He experimented with increasing the range of the Single Channel Ground-Air Radio System (SINCGARS) using Internet technology to carry messages between SINCGARS networks. "The SINCGARS is limited to line-of-sight," said Scoggin. "While the range can be extended through the use of repeaters, it's a challenge to do this in today's rapidly shifting battlefield. In the domestic support arena, these military radios are largely incompatible with most radio systems used by civilian first responders."

Scoggin used a commercially available voice-over-internet-protocol product and off-the-shelf audio patching systems to increase the transmission range of the SINCGARS through the DOD Global Information Grid (the military Internet). During a demonstration between Fort Detrick and Fort Meade, a distance of approximately 60 miles, a call was linked to Fort Detrick, and the SINGARS data was digitized and delivered to Fort Meade. As Scoggin described, all participants reported receiving the digital message "loud and clear," without the noise associated with line-of-sight technology.

Network Operations (NETOPS)

Network Operations includes network management, information assurance and information dissemination management. "The Network Operations concept: it's an umbrella that includes everything," said Maj. Jean Perry, 311th TSC planner for the exercise. "In a sense, the 311th TSC is an Internet Service Provider, but we're more than that. NETOPS crosses strategic, operational and tactical boundaries to provide Web-based services using our switches, satellites and telecommunications networks."

Perry explained one major success included establishing a Tropospheric super high frequency radio transmission between Fort Dix and Fort Meade that helped put in place a portion of the network architecture. "This was really amazing; that we were able to ensure our TROPO shot worked, and that it will work next year," said Perry. "It's important because this is one of the pieces of equipment we'll be inheriting for the ITSB."

Information Assurance (IA) was another accomplishment, said Perry. This complex concept involves -- in part -- certifying and accrediting information systems maintaining the IA and security posture of the Defense Information Infrastructure. She explained the 311th TSC was able to ensure all players, including the major players in the four exercises that used Signal resources, were properly accredited.

This seemingly small "paperwork" process involves the integration of new technology, super sessions spent researching Department of Defense directives and Army regulations, appointing key IA personnel, and of course, training and funds. Just to achieve IA during Grecian Firebolt required over six months of research alone. The thoroughness with which the 311th TSC tackled the job set the standard for the process of accreditation and certification of a tactical network.

Other technology initiatives included testing with FEMA the Defense Collaboration Tool Suite, a network collaboration service providing options such as video conferencing, whiteboarding, instant messenger service, and email. The 311th TSC was also able to experiment with FEMA's VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal), a software-driven earth satellite station that may replace some of the military legacy systems.

"The goal of Signal is to transform itself," said Spain. "Signal must provide the capacity for end-to-end communication, where information flows seamlessly from top to bottom, left to right. We must be responsive to the needs of the users by providing accurate information, making it secure, and making it quickly and easily available to the warfighter so they can use as they see fit. The ability to get to the source of the information provides for flexible, responsive decision making so that we stay ahead of the threat."

CONTACT: 311th TSC Public Affairs Office, +1-301-677-1070, or +1-703-725-1709.

CONTACT: 311th TSC Public Affairs Office, +1-301-677-1070, or +1-703-725-1709

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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jul 20, 2004
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