Guard unit finds home at Tobyhanna
June 15, 2009
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - It's been a year since Capt. James Minicozzi and members of the 55th Brigade Combat Team's Special Troops Battalion sat with senior officers and depot personnel to discuss the pros and cons of moving the unit's 59 members from an armory in Scranton to Tobyhanna Army Depot.
"This is the beginning of a great partnership," the captain said less than a month after moving his Pennsylvania Army National Guard unit into the barracks building on-post.
The men and women of Company B provide 24-hour operational Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) signal systems network support to the brigade.
"The company performs similar operations as Tobyhanna's Information Management Directorate (DOIM) [personnel]," Minicozzi says, noting that they are a fully operational Network Support Company that provides video teleconferencing and voice over Internet protocol phones and access to the internet for military use.
The journey began three years ago when the 2/103 Armor Battalion was deactivated and the 55th Brigade Special Troops Battalion emerged as part of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's (PAARNG) modularity transformation. The battalion consists of a headquarters command, military intelligence unit and network support company.
Last year, the captain and James Joseph, the Business Management Directorate's reserve component training coordinator, began talking about what they could do for training the unit because "Tobyhanna has been so instrumental in leading the technology when it comes to communications," Minicozzi explained.
The unit works with joint node networks (JNN), which consists of a shelter linked with a KU band satellite. The KU accesses a commercial satellite orbiting the Earth and transmits information to/from the JNN, which provides the unit with voice services and internet connectivity.
The unit also works with the Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical (Satellite) Terminal (SMART-T), which is part of the depot's Reset workload.
Spc. Paul Welby says that the SMART-T, which communicates with military satellites, transmits the same amount of data as a KU band, "but unlike the KU, it's completely secure." The SMART-T can be a standalone system or hooked into the JNN to access the internet through the satellites. Welby works as a SMART-T operator/maintainer for the unit.
"The SMART-T supports communication using a terminal identification, allowing for a point-to-point call from terminal to terminal, which lets you speak to each other in real time," Welby explains.
"One of the primary reasons for moving the unit here is because the type of equipment we use is also the type of equipment that Tobyhanna works on," Minicozzi says, noting that this is a good combination of the depot and the PAARNG.
"I thought, 'OK, we're here and doing our training and shots, how can we implement Tobyhanna into this''."
Since depot personnel are also instrumental in repairing, upgrading and installation of the Blue Force Tracking systems, Minicozzi invited them to watch an on-post exercise.
"Tobyhanna [personnel] were impressed when they came over to see the BFT. They saw how everything comes together, and they got to see how they're used in the real world," he notes.
"I think it was a morale-builder for the employees to see the equipment actually being used. They already know their job is making a difference, but to see it happen is great," explains Sgt. Sean O'Shea. He is a senior systems support sergeant and switch systems operator maintainer. He was the first Soldier to sign up for the company when it was created.
"Tobyhanna understand us because they're also signal," Welby adds.
Minicozzi, who was previously stationed here with an Army Reserve unit, says "this has been like a dream come true for me. Soldiers are seeing what I saw many years ago."
Placement is another win-win for having the unit stationed here, Minicozzi says, noting that because they're a National Guard unit, they also handle state missions.
"As soon as that first snowflake falls, we're alerted," Minicozzi explains, noting that the National Guard acts as first responders during emergencies and natural disasters.
"Being stationed here [instead of in Scranton] puts us in a more central location, since the unit is responsible for [interstates] 380, 80 and 84, and helps us respond quicker," Sgt. Raymond Naperkowski notes, adding that it makes executing missions a lot easier because their coverage area stretches to the Delaware Water Gap and New Jersey border.
On May 19 an Interservice Support Agreement license, which covers what the facility would be used for, type of training, and what the Soldiers would have access to on the depot, was signed by members of the National Guard Bureau.
Minicozzi says that the ultimate goal is building a new training center across from the Stroudsburg gate (former location Wherry Housing Project). The Soldiers will be housed in and train out of Building 230, and use Building 215 (old woodshop) as a supply area, until that plan is implemented.
"Anytime we have a mission, if something could go wrong, it's going to go wrong," O'Shea says. "Chances are it's probably going to be something new that we have no idea how to fix, but then you troubleshoot it and find solutions." He explains that the unit can call Tobyhanna to help out.
"Since it might be [an issue] they never saw before, we'll invite them to work 'side-by-side' to fix it. Then when [other equipment] arrives at the depot from Iraq, they may be able to repair it and get it back to the Soldiers faster."
"We're a unit [Tobyhanna personnel] can call on. We're Soldiers [who] are using the equipment that Tobyhanna is building, Resetting and installing," Minicozzi said, noting that if depot technicians need assistance, the Soldiers are only a phone call away. "This shows what the future has in store for us."
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.
About 5,600 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.