'Commo' Team Wires Spartan Brigade for Success
April 10, 2007
JALALABAD AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Information is as crucial to the Operation Enduring Freedom battlefield as rifles, artillery and mortars, and it grows more important by the day. The weapons by which this unique "ammo" is fired are computers, high-tech radio equipment and tracking devices.
The Spartan "commo" team has taken its nearly 15 months in Afghanistan to perfect the downrange productivity of these weapons.
The team has worked hard to maintain the connectivity of the brigade staff during their stint on Forward Operating Base Salerno and now on Jalabad Airfield.
Downrange, communication networking is not as extensive as at the brigade headquarters level. All battalion information is pushed up to headquarters for the command group to process. That information push relies heavily upon the skills of the brigade's communications experts.
"It's so important to make sure all personnel have all their required connectivity," said Army Staff Sgt. Sean Green, TF Spartan forward signal support non-commissioned officer. "We can't fight the fight without being able to communicate what is needed on the battlefield."
Members of the team travel with the brigade commander during his forward missions to maintain "commo" in the field.
"We go out a lot," said Green. "Every time the colonel goes out on mission, either myself or one of my counterparts will accompany him. We make sure all the radios and other transmitting equipment is there and working throughout mission.
"We make sure we are keeping the colonel connected at all times," the Rochester, N.Y. native added. "We are basically moving our headquarters forward. We try to be prepared for anything, even troubleshooting on the move."
During the team's time in-country, they established a strong working network for the brigade staff members on FOB Salerno. Upon the brigade's extension, the headquarters staff and several attachments were moved to Jalabad Airfield. The commo team moved in first to start work on bringing the brigade's connectivity up to par.
"We were given three buildings from which the brigade staff would work," said Army Capt. Michael Love, TF Spartan brigade automations officer.
"Two of them did not have any connectivity at all and one did not even have electricity," added the Pittsburgh native. "We wired each building with non-sensitive internet lines, secret internet lines and phone lines."
The challenges in this were numerous. In the aftermath of the brigade's four month extension in theater, the team was forced to split all of its stay behind equipment -- equipment that gets passed on to the next rotation -- with the incoming brigade. Therefore, the team was left with only half of their initial capabilities. Although certain sections experienced communications cutbacks, the brigade was fully functional in no time.
Working with half of its equipment was but one of the obstacles faced by the "commo" team. JAF, a base that previously held only a battalion and attachments, was suddenly swollen with a brigade headquarters, support personnel and various attached units.
"We had to restructure JAF so that it could accommodate the information push that was about to take place," said Love. "We didn't want to crash JAF's standing system. If we had tried to push all the electronic information through the circuits that did exist, the system would have eventually become backed up and just refused to send any information at all."
It was touch and go for the team members as they dove headfirst into their new mission. After they established a strong current for the tactical operations center, they turned their attention to establishing a new convoy fleet for the commander.
"We did not have any vehicles for the commander when we came to JAF," said Army Sgt. Keith Fudurich, TF Spartan Headquarters Headquarters Company Forward Signal Support specialist. "The Soldiers of 1st Battalion 32nd Infantry Regiment gave us vehicles and we had to scrape up parts from everywhere to make a fully operational forward mobile unit," added the Lake Havasa, Ariz., native.
The year has taught the team a lot about working as part of a mobile combat unit. Adaptability has played a large part in the team's success in Afghanistan.
"We have had to learn about different systems and software because the proper representatives aren't there to teach us about it," said Green. "We have learned mostly through using our common sense skills as communication experts. It hasn't been easy, though. It's been a lot of trial and error."
"We have had to interface client workspace with several new types of software," said Army Warrant Officer Vincent Moore, Local Area Network technician. "We have had to do a lot of research on our own. That was a small challenge where we learned a good deal. It was merely a necessary stumbling block to the progress we achieved," added the Summerville, Ga., native.
Spartan "commo" has taken some blows due to extension but they prevailed over all obstacles due to their ingenuity and perseverance.
"We have provided a firm base for the follow on brigade," said Love. "They may not have all the creature comforts of a more stabilized FOB, but if you look at the 'commo' piece, we are starting to build JAF up to where we were in Salerno. Signal has some of the most dynamic and intricate features in the military.
"The 'commo' shop is the feeding ground for all digital applications and we have so many individuals with so many different expert levels," he added. "All of my soldiers have learned a great deal and given a great deal. We are one of the first teams to deploy as a module brigade. These men have helped to establish a standard for future brigades and proven they can work in any environment."