Special Ops Signal Bn provides special support for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
At the time of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, 112th Signal Battalion was engaged in military exercises and operations in five different countries spread across three continents.
Since reactivation in 1986, 112th Signal Battalion missions and deployments have been worldwide and continuous, providing communications support to Army and Joint SOF organizations. In fiscal year 2001, the battalion supported six overseas joint exercises, including deployments to Thailand, Jordan, Mali, Nigeria, Germany, Korea, four Joint Readiness Training Center exercises and four internal Battalion Signal Strike exercises. With only two line companies and a headquarters company, at this pace, it was challenging to maintain well-trained and deployment-ready operators, capable of operating the high tech systems.
Identifying the need to restructure in order to better support training, unit readiness and deployments, LTC Robert T. Bell, former commander of the 112th Signal Battalion, (2000-2002), activated Company C as a third line company in July 2001. This allowed the battalion to institute a three-cycle training model. Each 90 day cycle is denoted by a color (red, green and amber) representing a specific focus for that company.
Each of the companies rotate through the three cycles with one company ready to deploy in support of joint and Army SOF missions at any given time. The Red Cycle is considered the support cycle. The focus of the Red Cycle company is leaves, schools and post support. The Amber Cycle company supports all missions whether in the Continental United States or outside CONUS. The Green Cycle company executes an intense training cycle consisting of ranges, technical training and certification, as well as, individual, collective and crew tasks which contributes to the company's readiness. This culminates in a Signal Strike validation exercise and Command Inspection and Mission Assumption Brief.
The validation determines whether the company is fully trained to assume mission support anywhere in the world. Through the disciplined implementation of the cycle system, the 112th Signal Battalion was trained to fight and win while maintaining an exceptional state of readiness prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and the beginning of the Global War on Terror. United States Army Special Operations Command and the Department of the Army recognized this exceptional status by awarding the unit the Army Award for Maintenance Excellence (runner-up for 2002 and 2003), and the 2002 Department of the Army Deployment Excellence Award.
Realizing the impact that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would have on soldiers and their families in this unit, the 112th Signal Battalion leadership stood ready to support combat operations. Within 96 hours of the attacks, Company A redeployed from Camp McKall, N.C., where it was conducting its mission assumption exercise, Signal Strike, and began crisis action planning in support of proposed operations in Afghanistan.
Company A deployed to Uzbekistan on Oct. 4, 2001, and established communications for the 5th Special Forces Group within 24 hours of their arrival. On Oct. 7, 2001, in the President's address to the nation, the President announced to the American public that he United States military [had] begun strikes against Al Qaeda terrorists training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Since that historical announcement, the 112th Signal Battalion has deployed over two hundred soldiers to eight countries on three continents in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Almost two years later, the 112th Signal Battalion continues to support Operation Enduring Freedom with its soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and other locations around the globe.
While the 112th remained committed to its ongoing mission in Afghanistan, the battalion deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Exercise Early Victor in September 2002. During Early Victor, the battalion established a cohesive relationship with the SOF units it supported. The rapport between the battalion and the supported units was strengthened through the establishment of procedures and the identification of key leaders and their roles and responsibilities.
In November 2002, to further strengthen the confidence in this relationship, the 112th Signal Battalion incorporated two Special Forces Groups in to the largest Signal Strike validation exercise in the unit's history with two companies from the 112th Signal Battalion deployed throughout the U.S. This experience allowed the companies to establish installation procedures, equipment strappings and recovery procedures that were synchronized with the Signal Centers for both Joint Special Operations Task Forces and Forward Operating Base Headquarters built around the two Special Forces Groups. The lessons learned during Early Victor were reaffirmed during the Signal Strike and the December 2002 Central Command's exercise Internal Look.
These exercises were designed to serve as communications rehearsal and preparation for what later became Operation Iraqi Freedom. The rehearsals were stepping-stones leading to the unprecedented speed of installation and success of the Iraqi Freedom communications network. The daunting task of supporting SOF units in OIF lay ahead, but the combination of the 112th Signal Battalion's training plan, the unit's experience and lessons learned from the deployment to Afghanistan and the relationships established with supported units during rehearsals proved to be the formula for success.
Early in the planning stages for proposed combat operations in Iraq, the Special Operations Command Central developed a plan that incorporated the 112th Signal Battalion, the Joint Communications Support Element and Air Force Special Operations Command 352nd and 16th Communications Squadrons.
The communications network developed was the largest and most complex in special operations history. Based on the connections between multiple joint units, the integration of Army, Navy, Air Force, Coalition and commercial off-the-shelf equipment, as well as the sheer size of the network; the 112th Signal Battalion leadership was determined to rehearse the network development thoroughly.
During the rehearsal, the 112th Signal Battalion focused on satellite, data and switching networks which were complex based on the planned integration of 112th's standard Army TTC-39E, Compact Digital Switch and the JCSE IGX commercial Public Branch Exchange, as well as the integration of the 112th Standard Army FCC-100 based multiplexer and the Promina-based multiplexers of JCSE and the 352nd and 16th Communications Squadrons. These significant differences led to some creative engineering and planning of systems.
While the 112th focused on the development of the satellite and switching network, the Special Forces Groups Signal Centers concentrated on local area network configuration and the installation of the FOB tactical LAN packages. During Operation Enduring Freedom, the USASOC recognized a need for standardized LAN packages to facilitate command, control, communications, computer and intelligence systems in support of operations in Afghanistan. As the rehearsals continued, the joint communications team of the 112th, SOCCENT, JCSE, AFSOC, 160th Special Operations Air Regiment and the Special Forces Groups recognized a significant number of issues and quickly engineered the solutions, enabling them to work out the technical and operational details of the eventual SOF theater command, control, communications, computers and intelligence C4I architecture installation and operation. After successful rehearsals, each unit returned home and prepared for the holiday season.
On Christmas Eve 2002, the 112th Signal Battalion received deployment orders to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and proposed combat operations in Iraq. Having recently rehearsed the most probable courses of action, the battalion leadership was confident that if the President decided to go forward with combat operations, they would be prepared and succeed in the installation of this large, complex network. Operation Iraqi Freedom called for SOCCENT to establish a Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command as well as two separate JSOTF's, the Joint Special Operations Air Component Command, two Joint Special Operations Air Detachments, a Naval Special Warfare Task Group, and six Special Forces FOBs.
Already engaged in Afghanistan with elements from Company A, the 112th Signal Battalion Headquarters, Companies B and C deployed to the CENTCOM AOR in January 2003. In order to adapt to the evolving operational needs led to elements from the battalion S-3, Area Theater Signal Office and battalion staff deployed in a unique manner. MAJ Kirby Watson, the battalion S-3 assumed the role as the Joint Communications Control Center director for the CFSOCC headquarters along with two officers three noncommissioned officers to provide the technical expertise in network configuration, satellite, data and switching.
Shortly thereafter, LTC Peter A. Gallagher, the 112th Signal Battalion commander deployed with a small battalion tactical operations center forward to collocate with the CFSOCC headquarters. The presence of the 112th Signal Battalion (Forward) allowed for the overall command and control, administrative and logistical sustainment of 112th assets in theater, while the 112th-led CFSOCC JCCC orchestrated the communications architecture. Co-locating the battalion TOC with the CFSOCC headquarters was instrumental in the decision making process during combat operations; ensuring timely resolution of any administrative or logistical issue that may impact the overall communications architecture.
The CFSOCC J6 quickly recognized the significance of having the soldiers from the deployed units in his staff and the J6 staff received additional augmentation from the 224th Joint Communications Systems Squadron of JCSE. The 224th JCSS established a TSC-85 and multiple USC-60 terminals at the CFSOCC headquarters as a tactical solution during the planning phase of the operation which developed from this combined engineering and operations was the establishing of the 224th JCSS TSC-85 as a tactical Standard Tactical Entry Point-like system, from which the Naval Special Warfare Task Group, two 112th Signal Battalion TSC-85 terminals and a dual spoke TSC-93C terminal were provided services, normally driven from a Defense Information Systems Network STEP site.
As the first elements from the battalion deployed into theater, the 112th Signal Battalion Headquarters deployed to establish the CFSOCC JCCC. Unlike normal battalion missions, Company C's deployment in January 2003 was monitored and assisted by elements from the battalion's Mission Support Center, Fort Bragg, as well as in the operational theater from the JCCC. As Company C arrived in theater, the network matured from the already established Early Victor network into a robust architecture providing service to the JSOTF, the Special Forces Group headquarters, three forward operating bases and the JSOAD elements, located with one of the FOBs.
The challenge of managing the bandwidth required, simultaneously by an FOB and a Joint Special Operations Air Detachment from the SOAR, by a single TSC-93C was met by the 112th Signal Battalion's upgraded TSC-93s which incorporated the new enhanced tactical satellite signal processor, making the TSC-93C V(2), capable of multiple links. This increased capability provided the CFSOCC with additional bandwidth and flexibility throughout the operation. The challenges encountered were quickly resolved during the prior planning and rehearsals. During the operation, additional challenges were quickly solved by the combination of MAJ Watson and his team of experts embedded in the CFSOCC JCCC and the dependability and determination of the soldiers in the field.
As the network services were being installed and configured by Company C for JSOTF-West, in February 2003, Company B and the battalion TOC deployed into theater to begin operations. Because of denied entry to certain countries, the initial location for JSOTF-North's staging base could not be used and courses of action for alternate locations were necessary. Based on the new course of action, Company B was forced to jump locations several occasions in a short time period. The need for smaller, lighter, transit-case systems which would provide increased flexibility was identified as the airlift requirements for multiple units increased and JSOTF North's FOBs were moved forward with the FOB communications support packages. In order to facilitate command and control, a decision was made to jump the company's hub terminal along with the JSOTF North C2 elements.
Based on this decision, the company knew it needed to jump as fast as possible because the JSOTF would only have its SCAMPI and the three Trojan-Light systems at the FOBs as networked communications platforms. Although the SCAMPI was providing the JSOTF headquarters with basic services, the JSOTF Staff relied heavily on the 352th Communications Squadron communications package. With a delay in airlift due to the need for a C-17 capable airfield to move the legacy system TSC-85, the company arrived in its new location four days after coming off the air when they again established communications links for the JSOTF headquarters. This challenge would have been solved with smaller, lighter, transit-case systems, reducing the amount of airlift required. Company B continued to support combat operations from those new locations until "major combat operations in Iraq [had] ceased" and Company B and JSOTF-North redeployed.
By March 2003, the 112th Signal Battalion had communication assets deployed to support the CFSOCC headquarters, two JSOTFs and six FOBs in Operation Iraqi Freedom while simultaneously engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and other locations.
Upon completion of major combat operations, the next phase of the operation called for a single JSOTF in Baghdad in order to support the continued Army SOF presence in Iraq. The decision was made to establish JSOTF-West as the sole JSOTF (Arabian Peninsula) along with its subordinate FOBs. This allowed Company B, the battalion TOC and the JCCC to transition out of theater and turn command and control of the 112th assets over to the Company C commander. The task of establishing sustainment communications fell on both the 112th Signal Battalion and the JCSE.
Based on attributes, services needed and habitual relationships of both units, the 112th would continue to provide communications for the FOBs while JCSE would establish a USC-60 package to support the JSOTF headquarters. This provided for a no-down-time solution for the transition of the JSOTF-West from one location to the next while at the same time posturing the JSOTF for commercialization and allowing for Company C, 112th Signal Battalion to refit for future operations.
OIF was the largest, most complex and successful Special Operations Communications Network in the history of warfare. This success can be attributed to the training and readiness cycle system and the detailed rehearsals and construction of relationships prior to actual combat operations.
Despite all the magnificent accomplishments of the soldiers, this operation clearly underscored the battalion's need to modernize and adapt to the changing requirements of SOF communications with smaller, lighter, more capable, more deployable communications systems.
The battalion is currently preparing to field Tri-band, transit-cased SHF terminals, Promina multiplexers and IGX switches. These system upgrades will allow the 112th to improve its future support to Army and Joint Special Operational Forces. The battalion maintains its support to special operation soldiers around the globe and continues its rigorous training to ensure it's ready anytime, anywhere; living up to its motto Penetra Le Tenebre--Penetrate the Shadows.
Signal Strike: An internal validation exercise to prepare companies for mission assumption.
MAITAI: Mission Assumption Inspection and Technical Assignment Inspection
SCAMPI: Not an acronym, SCAMPI is a system that combines a T-1 carrier with bandwith-on-demand capability. Field commanders with SCAMPI simultaneously can access secure voice, data, broadcast facsimile and video teleconferencing through a single integrated transmission path.
AFSOC--Air Force Special Operations Command
ATSO: Area Theater Signal Office
C2--command and control
C4I--command, control, communications, computers and intelligence
CFSOCC: Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command
ETSSP--Enhanced Tactical Satellite Signal Processor
DISN--Defense Information Systems Network
FOB--forward operating base
JCCC--Joint Communications Control Center
JCSE--Joint Communications Support Element
JRTC--Joint Readiness Training Center
JSOAD--Joint Special Operations Air Detachment
JSOTF--Joint Special Operations Task Force
JCSE--Joint Communications Support Element
pecial Operations Task Force
JCSS--joint communications system squadron
LAN--local area network
NSWTG--Navel Special Warfare Task Group
SOAR--Special Operations Aviation Regiment
SOCCENT: Special Operations Command Cent
SOF--special operations forces
SOSCOM: Special Operations Support Command
STEP--standard tactical entry point
TOC--tactical operations center
USASOC--Army Special Operations Command
CPT Patrick M. Flood is currently serving an Assistant Operations Officer for the 112th Signal Battalion (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C. He is a graduate of George Washington University, Washington, D. C, and was commissioned through the Georgetown Reserve Officer Training Corps program. During Operation Enduring Freedom he served as the Deputy Signal Center director for FOB 32, CJSOTF-Afghanistan. During Operation Iraqi Freedom he deployed with the Battalion TOC and served as the 112th Sig. Bn. (Forward) battle captain.
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|Date:||Sep 22, 2003|
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