Tail of the surge--tip of the spear.
One of the first hurdles to get over as a new S6 in the ITO is the garrison mentality of the network. Being in a combat zone and learning to deal with little to no control of that network to meet the commander's needs is tough for most S6s to accept. Yes, there will be collocated operating bases and remote locations that challenge any S6 with connectivity that can only be provided by a command post node or AN/50 to communicate. But, for the masses, the network architecture is rather robust for such a young theater and controlled by the technical control facility and enterprise operations.
TF XII (12th Combat Aviation Brigade) has been in Iraq for six months. The unit's original mission was in Balad supporting corps. The network architecture at Balad is extremely robust although there are significant differences between the east and west side of camp and the Army and Air Force networks. At Taji, where TF XII moved after receiving a change of mission, the network lacks some of the robustness that Balad provided. I can tell you any network an S6 falls in will provide him/her opportunity to improve it. The difference between network improvements on forward operating bases is how network upgrades are approved and implemented. Balad's approving authority is a Joint Communications-Iraq board consisting of Army and Air Force personnel. In contrast, the BCT S6s in concert with the TCF officer-in-charge run the Taji CommunicationsIraq board. Additionally, Balad Joint Communications-Iraq took on the responsibility of site surveys and requisitioning of equipment for projects when approved. At Taji, the burden of procuring project materials and equipment rest on the BCT S6.
One of the benefits in the ITO is the ability to procure new automation equipment. The corps realizes this is a maturing network and lacks the architecture of more mature garrison facilities. Funds are available and to request new automation equipment only requires a Communications and Signals Staff validation board packet. TF XII has submitted at least a dozen or so packets valued at more than 1.25 million dollars for life cycle replacement, new automation requirements, automation supplies, and more. One note is that acquiring Land Mobile Radios is nearly impossible. After six months in theater, TF XII has yet to receive any radios even after Department of the Army G3 approved the unit's operational needs statement, and corps' plan to distribute 40,000 EF Johnson LMRs has stalled.
A final note about some of the aggravations a S6 will experience is the difference in how the TCFs are run. One of the most significant issues units face when moving in the ITO is that each TCF requires a computer to be baselined even if the computer is on the same domain--iraq.centcom. This requirement became such an issue that during an open discussion at the corps quarterly signal conference the Joint NetOps Control Center-Iraq officer-in-charge, BG Hawkins, ordered C6 to resolve this matter and the differences in requirements from one FOB to another. I can say that after the analysis which involved many BCT S6s--little has changed and the fight with the TCF continues.
The Iraqi theater provides any S6 challenges and many opportunities to develop skills. Setting aside a tactical network mentality has to be the first lesson learned by every S6. The theater is maturing and implementing long term network improvements and operations must be the focus while supporting the fight outside the wire.
I would like to agree, there are many challenges that an S6 will face in the ITO. Foremost, three key areas:
1) Reset/Regeneration of equipment and train-up of personnel,
2) Reception, staging, and onward integration in Kuwait, and
3) Movement into area of responsibility, setup, and transition to steady state operations.
However, it is critical for the brigade or battalion S6 to be prepared for the unexpected and never lose focus of the priorities of the tactical network. Last minute changes in battle space, repeated movement of TOC locations or "jumping the TOC," and requirements to provide service and equipment to elements above modified table of equipment in an ever increasingly stressed frequency spectrum environment are just a few of the battles a S6 must face while managing a tactical network.
A brigade combat team through the miracle of modularity has become essentially autonomous in that they operate their own piece of the network and their own communications security account. The BCT now provides services to the brigade and subordinate elements that were previously provided by the Division Signal Battalion.
When you also bring into account the additional unexpected challenges that a communications staff officer must be prepared for, the S6 job becomes more complicated than ever.
When 3rd BCT arrived in theater we were informed that we would conduct a "non-traditional RIP." Typically, units conduct a relief-in-place with the outgoing unit in preparation for the Transfer of Authority to the newly arrived unit.
3rd BCT deployed as the "surge" draw down began transitioning five BCTs out of theater and leaving no unit to RIP with officially. We arrived to Taji and quickly learned that although the surge was ending - space on Taji was tight with nearly 17,000 Soldiers on site. We were forced to occupy a building that had been gutted by the previous tenants in an area that had little to no quality of life for our Soldiers in relation to the rest of the units on the FOB.
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In addition, 3rd BCT left Fort Carson with a number of automations equipment shortfalls, including a lack of sufficient hand-held radios that operate in the FM frequency range for compatibility with single-channel-ground-to-air radios, switches, laptops, and VoIP phones. Despite the conditions, we worked continuously day and night to set up the tactical operations center. Within weeks of arrival the Stryker Brigade established its headquarters in an empty warehouse on North Taji and facilitated battalion movement into battle space.
We now operate in a counter insurgency environment, where we combine offensive, defensive, and stability operations in an attempt to achieve the conditions required to establish effective governance, essential services, and economic development. In this operational environment intelligence information is filtered from the bottom up, from dismounted patrols on the ground relaying information over frequency modulation back to the joint security station, combat outpost or patrol base in sector or from concerned local citizens relaying tips over cell phones to battalion TOCs. All of this information is brought in at the company level, analyzed, and sent up to the battalion for further analysis and targeting; key to this is adequate communications systems in place at the lowest level.
Communication requirements at the company have changed from traditional FM and Force Battle Command Brigade and Below - Lower Tactical Internet to now requiring secure Internet Protocol router/non-secure Internet Protocol router/voice over Internet Protocol (Upper Tactical Internet) and the ability to conduct collaborative meetings and input significant activities over the network from the bottom up. Every Soldier is a sensor, which increases the number of information injection points into the network. Companies now, more than ever, need the ability to adequately share information, filter that information to higher echelons, and conduct non-lethal targeting to home in on the insurgents.
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Current MTOE authorizations for radios and computers do not adequately meet requirements nor do they adequately provide the network transmission capability at the company level. The joint network transport capability system stops at the battalion level with the command post node Ku satellite band Terminal Trailer and a V1 line-of-sight system, but what do we have for the company level? In addition, coalition forces continue to partner with Iraqi Army units to help increase the strength and presence of the Iraqi Army. The BCTs are typically responsible with resourcing the military transition teams, national police transition teams, embedded provincial reconstruction teams and other enablers that support both lethal and non-lethal operations.
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In recent months the Multinational Division-Baghdad commanding general directed that all COPs and JSSs have NIPR/SIPR/VoIP capability, as well as having adequate Morale, Welfare, and Recreation access for the Soldiers. Also as BCT and battalion headquarters begin to push off the FOBs and out into sector to facilitate continuous counter insurgency operations, the demands of collaborative applications such as command post of the future, Adobe Connects (Breeze) collaboration meetings and the SharePoint portal file sharing system will, challenge S6s at all levels to provide these capabilities to their commanders. To date we have resourced these requirements with commercial-off-the-shelf, SIPR, Point of Presence, Virtual Satellite Aperture Terminals, or dismounted LOS systems connected into data packages outfitted with switches, routers, and Cisco Call Manager Express to provide these capabilities. However these resources were acquired through operational needs statements, and purchase requests, and commitments that took months to process.
The bottom line is a commander shouldn't have to worry about communications, their job is to command and control, our job is to facilitate with adequate systems and with the outstanding signal Soldiers who make up our great Army.
BCT--Brigade Combat Team
BFT--Blue Force Tracker
BSTB--Brigade Special Troops Battalion
C2--command and control
C6--Communications and Signals Staff
CFT--Cross Function Team
COB--Collocation Operating Base
CPNs--Command Post Nodes
CPOF--Command Post of the Future
DCGS--Distributed Common Ground
ePRT--embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team
FBCB2--Force Battle Command Brigade and Below
FOBs--Forward Operating Bases
ITO--Iraqi Theater of Operations
JNCC-I--Joint NetOps Control CenterIraq
JNTC--Joint Network Transport Capability
JNTC-S--Joint Network Transport Capability--Spiral
JSS--Joint Security Station
LMRs--Land Mobile Radios
MiTT--Military Transition Teams
MND-B--Multi-National Division Baghdad
MTOE--Modified Table of Organization and Equipment
NIPR--Non Secure Internet Protocol
NPTT--National Police Transition Teams
OIF--Operation Iraqi Freedom
ONS--Operational Needs Statements
PR&Cs--Purchase Requests and Commitments
RIP--Relief in Place
RSOI--Reception, Staging, and Onward Integration
SINCGARs--Single Channel Ground Airborne Radio System
SIPR--Secure Internet Protocol
SPOP--SIPR Point of Presence
STT--Satellite Terminal Trailer
TCF--Technical Control Facility
TF XII--Technical Control Facility 12
TOC--Tactical Operations Center
TPE--Theater Provided Equipment
VOIP--Voice over Internet Protocol
By MAJs Gina Thomas and Ron Cohen
MAJ Thomas serves as the brigade S6 for 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colo. Currently deployed within the Multi-National Division - Baghdad area of operations for a 15 month tour.
MAJ Cohen was assigned to 12th Combat Aviation Brigade three weeks before he deployed to Kuwait. He has been assigned to 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Campbell; 44th Signal Battalion, 7th Signal Brigade; 3ID where he served as G6 Plans Officer for 19 months and D/123rd company commander during OIF I; Georgia Southern University APMS; and 12th CAB as the BDE S6.