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No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great, duty first.

121st Signal Battalion, responsible for the communications systems of the 1st Infantry Division, lived up to the division motto while deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Using legacy equipment, commercial off-the-shelf equipment, and sometimes rather unorthodox methods, we strove to fulfill every mission and request of the division's 15,000 subscribers.

This article outlines some of the more creative and unconventional ways in which we provided voice and data to the Big Red One in the desert.

From February 2004 to February 2005 the brigade-sized "Task Force 121st Sig." supported the 1st Infantry Division in North Central Iraq (Multi-National Division-North Central). Using 12 big switches, 48 small extension nodes, 19 remote access units, four Super RAUs, 14 secure mobile anti-jam reliable tactical terminals, and three ground mobile force terminals, run by 1,027 Soldiers, Danger's Voice provided voice and data communications support to units across an area the size of West Virginia, making this one of the largest division level mobile subscriber equipment networks in the history of the Army.

In 12 months 121st Sig. Bn. supported 1,280 division non-secure voice terminal phones processing an average of 4,775 calls per hour and 738 non-secure Internet Protocol router subscribers, 2,083 secure Internet Protocol router subscribers passing an average of 125 GB of data per day.

The eight-company, 12 switch, 1,027 Soldier battalion obviously did not deploy from Germany to Iraq with that exact task organization. While in Kuwait, we received four additional companies to complete the task force. B/125th Sig. "Hele On" came from 125th Sig. Bn. out of Hawaii in support of 2/25 Infantry Brigade. B/279, Alabama National Guard, deployed with 30th enhanced Separate Brigade, the North Carolina National Guard enhanced Separate Brigade. 711th and 115th Sig. Bns. deployed to Iraq with the rest of the 142nd Sig. Bde. units (29th Sig. and 279th) as general support. Each battalion gave up one of their companies--C/711 and A/ 115--to 121st Sig. Bn. to complete the Multi-National Division-North Central network.

Company areas of responsibility

When faced with the problem of supporting three division command posts and 11 major subordinate commands with seven signal companies LTC James Garrison, 121st Sig. Bn. commander, decided to retain all companies under Signal Task Force Control. Any team within the network was considered to be a part of the battalion, and reported to System Control.

In order to integrate the attached units into network command and control, each company was tasked to provide one noncommissioned officer to SYSCON on either a permanent or rotating basis. SYSCON was therefore no longer a faceless entity, but a team of personnel from all units within the task force. For signal support requests, Garrison relied on the division S6s to report directly to G6--thus providing one source for all signal issues.

In order to clearly define the signal battle space, Garrison designated company areas of responsibility at the beginning of the deployment. Any team that fell within their area of responsibility belonged to that company commander for all network, supply, maintenance, personnel, and Uniform Code of Military Justice issues or actions.

All Soldiers, regardless of the patch on their left shoulder, were treated as members of the team. This philosophy greatly decreased the number of convoys on the road and provided maximum support to the Soldiers.

Communications control board

In order to coordinate communications support throughout the HD area of operations, Garrison directed the employment of a communications control board. This group consisted of the battalion commander, S3, and personnel from SYSCON, G6, and the network operations center. In addition, S6s and company commanders were invited to attend. This board met weekly to discuss data routing issues, new equipment fielding, network statuses and generated ideas to improve signal support to the warfighter. Many of the following innovations were conceived during a communications control board.

Data packages

The battalion did not have sufficient assets to provide the number of phones and data lines required by the division's subscribers. Early on in planning stages, we identified a requirement for data packages, conceptually based on the 7th Sig. Bde. packages.

The Battalion Net Tech, CW2 Dannie Walters, placed the order foi seven packages outfitted to support Prominas with Program Executive Office command, control and communications tactical two month; prior to deployment. PEOC3T delivered the equipment to the battalion in February in Kuwait, anc the data packages joined the long convoy north.

Due to a lack of transmission assets for the packages, only two were initially installed--one to support division main command post and another for division rear command post. The Kuwait-Iraq command, control, communications, and computers commercialization project managers promised Garrison two deployable Ku-Band Earth Terminals should the battalion provide the backside equipment. Kuwait-Iraq C4 Commercialization delivered two deployable Ku-Band Earth Terminals to area of operation Danger in May of 2004. By August of 2004 both systems were installed and operational, each providing a six MB pipe to corps, four MB internal and either a two or four MB DISN gateway.

Installation of the remaining data packages required patience and ingenuity. Two BCTs were located 10 KM from the DMAIN data package, and therefore within MSE line-of-sight range. C/121 and A/ 121 installed LOS V1s at each end of the link between Forward Operating Bases Danger and Dagger, creating a 2MB link between packages.

This link provided additional NIPR, SIPR and long local telephones to the Brigade Combat Team headquarters. Since three BCTs, and 30 eSB were unreachable by LOS, we waited for means to install the links via satellite. In December, the battalion received Tropospheric Scatter Assets for 2/25 BCT, freeing a 93C satellite terminal for the link between DMAIN and three BCT data packages.

Each BCT received two long locals with world-wide DSN and commercial capabilities in addition to the extra data available.


One of the worst misconceptions in the signal community is the belief that there is little to no legiti mate need for NIPR in theater. NIPR is not merely an Morale, Welfare, and Recreation capability for Soldiers--it is a highly used, mission essential data requirement for many different units.

Medical units require NIPR for Medical Protection System and other NIPR based software to include long distance surgery assistance. Finance has a heavy requirement for NIPR since most of their databases are on the NIPR and not SIPR network. All maneuver units used NIPR-based Defense Transportation Reporting and Control Systems which allowed the commander to view the location of his units in real-time on the battle field.

These requirements in addition to the retention, personnel, supply purchasing, and legitimate MWR requirements caused the unit S6s to demand real NIPR from the signal battalion.

In response to the unit requests, two network engineers in SYSCON, SFC Larry Martin and SSG James Gallagher researched and installed a generic routing encapsulation tunneling network for NIPR running through the SIPR MSE path. Prior to this installation, all NIPR was single source, with one tactical fastlane gateway at SYSCON. All 1ID users were provided sub-netted IP addresses and searched through the network to FOB Danger where they competed for access to the DISN cloud.

With the installation of data packages and TACLANEs at each BCT HQs, SFC Larry Martin and Gallagher were able to link each BCT TACLANE providing the ability to use additional gateways located at DMAIN, DREAR, and 2/25 BCT HQs. This allowed them to load balance the NIPR data requirements among multiple gateways and immediately re-route data during outages. While this did not provide T1 access to every user, it did make real NIPR available for valid mission requirements.

Quality of service

1ID subscribers had an insatiable appetite not only for SIPR and NIPR data, but for secure voice as well. As the last division non-secure voice terminal was handed out, we turned toward Voice over Internet Protocol. At the time VoIP was not a new or unique means of communication. 1st Cavalry Division and III Corps were throwing their DNVT phones out of the window and putting a VoIP terminal on every desk. Third Infantry Division was packing their containers with VoIP terminals, throwing in a few DNVTs just to be safe.

The differences between those networks and ours were bandwidth restrictions and satellite connectivity. CW3 Phillip Van Engen solved our bandwidth and latency problems through quality of service. Over a three week period, Van Engen installed additional memory and imaging operating system upgrades in all routers in the network enabling QOS services.

This provided chief and the network engineers with another method for controlling data routing. QOS allowed them to weight different data bits--giving voice and video a higher priority over other forms of data. This not only increased the quality of all VoIP calls, but our TANDBERG Internet based video teleconference calls as well.

Super RAUs

With only 48 SENs available for use in the network, 121st Sig. Bn. was not able to provide voice and data capabilities to all units with mission requirements. In order to help meet those needs, CECOM Logistics Assistance Representative Chris Cadorette and 121st Sig. Bn. Electronic Maintenance Section technicians created the Super RAU. By sacrificing four RT-1539 radios, manufacturing some cabling, and procuring a few extra routers, 121st Sig. Bn. created the SRAU that provided three local DNVT lines and SIPR access in addition to a 15KM Multi-Channel Secure Remote Terminal footprint.

These Super RAUs were dispatched to locations where only a few subscribers had a valid need for voice and data. Super RAUs were sent to downtown Samara and the Baqubah Police Station, critical locations that were also heavily targeted by insurgents. In the case of SR30, Alabama National Guard 25Q radio operators from the 115th Sig. Bn. maintained data capabilities for the infantry in Samara during Operation Baton Rouge.

Contingency packages

Despite the shortage of SENs ii the network, 121st Sig. Bn. understood the need for a SEN/SMART-T team with reserved satellite assets to be on permanent stand-by for contingency purposes. A/115 again provided an incredible team for this duty--D23. These four Alabama National Guard Soldiers remained on 12-hour notice to deploy anywhere within the MNC-I AO. Their attention to detail and devotion to duty was apparent during each of their deployments. With this team, we were able to provide HD with a short notice reliable communications package for three BCT deployment to Najaf, three BCT deployment to Fallujah, DIVARTY deployment to Najaf, two BCT Operations in Patrol Base Tinderbox, and two BCT operations in Samara.

Commercial line-of-sight, "Wireless"

SEN shortages also created the need for local area data support on the large command post FOBs. G6 Information Assurance Specialist Rick Taylor investigated the use of "wireless" technology to push NIPR and SIPR beyond the limitations of CAT-V. Rick was able to identify and procure NSA approved equipment--SECNET 11 for SIPR and Air Fortress for NIPR. G6 and S3 personnel installed the equipment on FOBs Danger and Speicher for general area support. Each post had one or two omni-directional antennas, but relied mainly on point-to-point connections for critical users in remote locations on the FOB.

The heaviest used Secure Network 11 connection was between DMAIN and our headquarters' gateways. Until the wireless connection was installed, the Signal Task Force was unable to provide large enough data pipes to DMAIN. Since all servers were consolidated, subscribers in the network went to one location to send and receive email, download master control station-light data, submit reports, and pull intelligence data. On installation, the wireless connection passed an average of 2.5 megabytes per second, and continued to do so for the remainder of the deployment.


Line-of-sight legacy technology remained the backbone of the division MSE network. An average of 66 LOS links provided reliable communications from Kirkuk to Baqubah. Antennas could be found on water towers, air traffic control towers, and palace roofs. 25Q radio operators pushed the LOS terminals beyond the limits found in the technical manuals. B/125 installed a relay on Jabal Hamrin ridgeline, supporting a 75 KM shot to Kirkuk on one side and 50 KM on the other to Tikrit. A RAU placed on the same location supported multi-channeled secure remote terminal subscribers up to 70 kilometers away. FM coverage of that area found units communicating through a RETRANS from Samara to Kirkuk. C/121 placed an LOS V1 at a node center to install a 2 MB link between DMAIN and the rest of the network. Until the installation of the wireless SECNET 11, this 2 MB link remained at capacity for four months.

Unfortunately, our teams were also required to react during node center crashes. In order to retain the critical links to subscribers, Node center transmission section personnel were trained to install V3 relays from an internodal to a supported SEN on short notice. This battle drill ensured that the warfighter retained critical communications, and gave the Node Center personnel time to recover the switch.

In order to fill the demand for LOS terminals serving as relays, data package extensions, and 2MB internodals, Chris Cadorette and EMS once again found the answer. With additional cabling and radios, V1s became relays and V3s were made into dual relays. This not only saved the battalion on equipment, but also personnel. A hilltop with two V3s and two teams was replaced with only one V3 holding four LOS shots.


While LOS was the backbone of the network, SMART-Ts provided critical connectivity beyond line-of sight capabilities. We used SMART-Ts at remote locations in the far northern region of As Sulaymanyah and also for contingency package support to locations like Samara and Fallujah. SMART-Ts provided the division tactical command post with flexible C2 during numerous jumps to Babylon, Balad Ruz, and Kirkuk. SMART-T connectivity also supplied crucial redundancy to distant ends of the network like Baqubah and Balad.

121st Sig. Bn. also pushed the limits of SMART-T connectivity. During the last few months of HD presence in Multi-National Division, North Central, the division required us to provide connectivity to assets in Kuwait and Germany. We filled this requirement by installing a SMART-T terminal 257 KM outside of the planning spot beam in Kuwait. We also installed a double hop from a spot beam over Iraq to a terminal off of a spot beam in Wuerzburg, Germany. These connections provided flexible and reliable communications to the division at numerous command posts from Kuwait to Tikrit to Wuerzburg.


In order to support the incoming 42nd Infantry Division, New York National Guard, Garrison proposed to leave in place as much signal equipment as possible. The leave-in-place concept would stabilize the network for the warfighters during the division RIlP and national elections. The concept, known and used by the Marines and Air Force, worked well between 121st and our replacements, the 250th and 17th Sig. Bns. Task Force 121, including all attached companies, left in place four Node Centers, eighteen SENs, eight Remote RAUs and one SMART-T. Our representative in Kuwait received, inventoried and signed for all proposed incoming LIP equipment. While in Kuwait, the equipment was returned to the port and shipped to Germany. 250th and 17th company commanders inventoried and signed for equipment remaining in Iraq during left seat/right seat rides. Therefore, during the most turbulent period of OIF II, the national elections, 50 percent of the network remained in place, providing reliable communications to the warfighters.

Feb. 14, 2005,121st Sig. Bn. turned over the vast communications network of MND-NC to 250th and 17th Sig. Bns. During our tenure we installed 70 kilometer LOS shots, brought in virtually impossible SMART-T links, provided SIPR data through RAUs, and relayed two sets of line-of-sight links through one V3 LOS van. Within the Signal Task Force, National Guard, and active duty Soldiers from five different battalions worked as one team to provide redundant, reliable, and robust communications to the Soldiers of the 1ID. For the 121st Sig. Bn. in Iraq there was never a mission too difficult, nor sacrifice too great. Duty first!

CPT Donley is currently the assistant S3, network planner, for the 121st Signal Battalion. She has served with the 1st Infantry Division for four years as an aviation battalion signal officer and Node Center Platoon Leader as well as in the battalion systems control. She deployed to Turkey with HD during OIF I, and spent OIF II with 121st Signal Battalion in Tikrit, Iraq.


AO--Area of Operations AOR--Area of Responsibility BCT--Brigade Combat Team C4--Command, Control, Communications, and Computers CAT-V-Category Five Network Cable CCB--Communications Control Board CECOM-Communications Electronics Command DISN--Defense Information System Network DIVARTY--Division Artillery DKET--Deployable Ku-Band Earth Terminal DMAIN--Division Main Command Post DNVT--Division Non-Secure Voice Terminal DREAR--Division Rear Command Post DTAC--Division Tactical Command Post DTRACS--Defense Transportation Reporting and Control System EMS--Electronic Maintenance Section eSB--enhanced Separate Brigade FOB--Forward Operating Base GRE--Generic Routing Encapsulation GMF--Ground Mobile Forces IOS--Imaging Operating System KICC--Kuwait-Iraq C4 Commercialization LAR--Logistics Assistance Representative LIP--Leave-in-Place LOS--Line-of-Sight MCS-L--Master Control Station - Light MEDPROS--Medical Protection System MND-NC-Multi-National Division, North Central MSE--Mobile Subscriber Equipment MSRT--Multi-Channel Secure Remote Terminal MWR--Morale, Welfare, Recreation NC--Node Center NIPR--Non-secure Internet Protocol Router NOC--Network Operations Center PB--Patrol Base PEOC3T--Program Executive Office Command, Communications and Control Tactical QOS--Quality of Service RAU--Remote Access Unit RIP--Relief in Place SECNET--Secure Network or Secure Wireless Local Area Network (SWLAN) SEN--Small Extension Node SIPR--Secret Internet Protocol Router SMART-T-Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal SRAU--Super RAU SYSCON--Systems Control TACLANE-Tactical Fastlane VOIP--Voice over Internet Protocol VTC--Video Teleconferencing
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Author:Donely, Julia M.
Publication:Army Communicator
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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