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MG James C. Hylton--exit interview.

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz.--"It's been a terrific ride."

How many out there would be able to say that after working for the same company for nearly 34 years?

MG James C. Hylton, commanding general, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command/ 9th Army Signal Command, is on the last leg of a ride that started back in December 1971. After a long series of assignments from company-level to the Joint Staff, Hylton ends his career in a place where he is very familiar.

Twice before, he was assigned to the 11th Signal Brigade at Fort Huachuca; first in 1985 as the 40th Signal Battalion executive officer, and the second time in 1994 as the brigade commander. Hylton was no stranger to Greely Hall, either. He served in the Inspector General's office in 1983, when it was called United States Army Information Systems Command, and then again in 1996 as the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, when it was United States Army Signal Command.

Hylton assumed command of USASC in July 2001, when it was a major subordinate command of U.S. Forces Command. Army Transformation was underway, and Hylton was up to the challenge.

"Essentially the transition that took place here was a traditional transition of command," Hylton remarked on his arrival to command USASC. "We (Hylton and MG William Russ) talked about the near-term priorities, some near-term actions that were on-going, and of course his perspective on some of the longer term challenges that might confront the command.

Those priorities included sustaining current missions while posturing USASC to respond to new missions as the command and the rest of the Army transformed.

"I felt very comfortable from day one... we had a great staff in place," Hylton said. "We were postured and we had the right people in the right positions to be able to respond to both priorities that we shaped early on as we moved into this command position."

These priorities didn't change, even when the rest of the world did. Just two months after assuming command, the nation suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history; Sept. 11, 2001. As far away as Fort Huachuca is from New York and Washington, D.C., USASC forces were playing parts in both locations.

Several USASC Soldiers, on duty providing communications support to the Secret Service in New York, worked side-by-side with fire fighters and police to rescue and evacuate the wounded at the World Trade Center buildings. Several members of the command were inside the Pentagon when the attack occurred, and witnessed the devastation first-hand. Individuals and teams from USASC, and more out of the 21st Signal Brigade from Fort Detrick, Md., were immediately called into action at the Pentagon to repair the destroyed infrastructure there.

"We leveraged every capability we had to be responsive to the Army and to the Defense Department's immediate requirements as a result of the attack on our nation and the infrastructure that was destroyed," Hylton said. "But, almost concurrently with that, we immediately began to posture our tactical formations; specifically the early priority was the 11th Signal Brigade. We had good indications that we were going to--as a result of presidential press conferences, presidential correspondence, the leadership of our congress--it was very clear that we were going to respond in some manner to the attacks on our nation."

Elements of the 11th deployed just before Christmas 2001, to support the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 86th Signal Battalion, supporting the 10th Mountain Division (Light) from Fort Drum, N.Y., deployed to Afghanistan. There, the 86th performed the mission for which it was trained--to help the warfighters communicate. With a mix of tactical satellite, line-of-sight and a lot of ingenuity, the 86th supplied the task force a mix of secure and non-secure data and voice communications, and video teleconferencing capabilities.

As the war on terrorism progressed, more and more often, NETCOM's units were called in to support the constantly growing requirement for high-level communications services. The 7th Signal Brigade, 93rd Signal Brigade and the entire 11th Signal Brigade--to include elements from the headquarters--were deployed into Southwest Asia.

"At one point in time, about 79 percent of our command's total tactical force capability was deployed," Hylton said. "We were in a position where we simply did not have enough force structure to facilitate the continuation of this enduring mission."

The solution to the dilemma was to commercialize communications in theater. With the assistance of industry, the tactical Signal forces in theater were able to withdraw and prepare for any other missions required of them. Since then, between 1,200 to 1,400 contractors have been deployed at any given time to Southwest Asia--equal to two-plus battalions--over the last two years. They provide the critical, never-ending mission support capabilities commanders on the ground require.

In spite of all the deployments and issues supporting the war on terrorism, USASC still had to transform into an organization that would eventually be known as NETCOM/9th ASC. It would be a global organization with new missions, a reorganization of units and staff, and all the challenges associated with them.

"The actions that were going to be required to transform Army Signal Command to an enterprise C4 (command, control, communications, and computers) global organization were many," Hylton said. "We took a very hard look at what we perceived would be the eventual General Order 5 mission, which was the restated command's mission. Essentially, what we found out as a result of that mission analysis was that the Army Signal Command clearly had within its staff framework the capabilities to meet many of the missions that were anticipated or that would eventually evolve under General Order #5, signed by the Secretary of the Army; however, we were missing a couple of components."

Army Signal Command would comprise the core of the organizations; but there was also a need for specialized organizations to tackle the issues of standards, policies and requirements across the Army enterprise. One such organization was the Enterprise Systems Technology Activity, which was created to lead the enterprise engineering and implementation efforts. Several organizations within the Army Signal Command were folded under ESTA, along with some from the Chief Information Officer/G-6, formerly known as the Directorate of Information Systems for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers.

General Order #5 was signed Aug. 13, 2002, and NETCOM/9th ASC officially activated Oct. 1, 2002; it was the first direct reporting unit in the Army realigned as a result of Army Transformation. Most in the command would agree that it was a challenging start, but not unexpected given the scope of the requirement. But with a staff that's somewhat smaller than would normally be found in an organization with global responsibilities, Hylton attributes the successful transformation--while still managing operational war fighting requirements--to a hard-working, dedicated staff.

Since that time, NETCOM units have been involved in every operation in support of the war on terrorism, numerous humanitarian missions in the Western Hemisphere, and major exercises. Those same units have also carried out their day-to-day missions supporting overseas theater commands, Homeland Security, the Defense Department, White House, and more. Army Transformation has also been the catalyst for restructuring initiatives within the command; and the command has been at the forefront of major changes within the Signal Regiment.

"I have great pride in our people and what they have contributed to our mission and the transformation of the Signal Regiment," Hylton said. "Our people have helped shape the organizing and equipping component for both our tactical and strategic forces, our network operational forces; they have helped put into place concepts like the Integrated Theater Signal Battalion, the network operations force design updates, the JC4 force design updates; they've done considerable work to enable our current force, but more importantly to enable the future force."

Hylton has, at every opportunity, done what he could to praise and recognize the people in the command. NETCOM's employees are, in his words, "the silent enablers." Most will never be featured in national magazines, mainstream newspapers, or journals; but Hylton still thinks the members of the NETCOM team are worthy of praise.

"Our people have a tremendous reputation around the world because they perform," Hylton said. "They're part of the team, and that's what contributes to our mission successes, globally; I'm just very proud of all that they've done, and, again, what they've done to set the conditions for the future."

To show his appreciation and let the NETCOM Soldiers and Civilians know how he felt, one of Hylton's final initiatives was to recognize those who have gone above and beyond. Those who made a difference were dubbed "Heroes" by Hylton; and he says that all who work in the gray halls of Greely Hall, in the brigades, and around the world are deserving of the title.

"The fact of the matter is... they are indeed heroes because they work day in and day out to provide an enabling capability to our nation," Hylton commented. "I wanted people to understand and have an appreciation for the role people have had within the context of impacting our global mission. It ranges from the operations mission today to all the incredible work that's been done here as we've attempted to enable and influence and to shape the future capabilities of our regimental forces--both tactical and strategic. They have indeed laid the foundation for the future."

As his successor, BG Carroll Pollett, takes charge, Hylton is comfortable that those same people who have been working so hard and long to make NETCOM/9th ASC successful will continue to be successful under the new commanding general. Pollett was the commanding general of the 5th Signal Command, a major subordinate command of NETCOM. That assignment, Hylton says, gives Pollett an advantage as he assumes command.

"They're going to get an extraordinary leader," Hylton said. "They're going to get a leader that has a broad operational background from his experience at the division and corps level through his experiences at the Defense Information Systems Agency, and of course his assignment just prior to arriving here from 5th Signal Command.

"BG Pollett has a transformational, visionary mind that will be invaluable to the command as he assumes his leadership role."

For Hylton, the time fast approaches and he leaves with good feelings about where the organization is headed and the people in it. He does confess that some things that came naturally in his Army life haven't yet materialized as he transitions into retirement; he has no plan.

"Having been in the Army a little over 33 years, not having a defined plan for the next series of moves is certainly something that's foreign to what has been this wonderful Army life that we have lived," Hylton said. "We leave with wonderful feelings and memories, great friends, and we leave with a level of great anticipation for what comes next."

Mr. Hortin is with NETCOM/9th ASC Public Affairs, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

(Editor's note: Vince Breslin, NETCOM/9th ASC command historian, contributed to this article.)
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Author:Hortin, Eric
Publication:Army Communicator
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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