By Summer BarkleyJuly 15, 2014
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Optics, sensors, scanners, helium trailers, generators and radios are very different types of equipment fielded to deployed troops that are supported by Communications-Electronics Command personnel at the Electronic Sustainment Support Center/Regional Support Center, located in a corner of the 3-401st Army Field Support Battalion footprint, where units can access C4ISR maintenance, training and troubleshooting support.
The ESSC and RSC house technicians who provide maintenance support in communications, electronics, networking, fiber optics, software, HVAC/ECU, power generation and program manager support for a veritable laundry list of highly specialized technical equipment used by U.S. and coalition forces. Some of the equipment is non-standard and commercial off-the-shelf equipment and some is U.S. Army system or program of record equipment that requires very specialized tools or skills to maintain. In the case of Army equipment, it is either more cost or time effective to have CECOM technicians complete the repairs.
"It's an umbrella organization," said Robert L. Martin, ESSC manager. "The ESSC houses support capabilities and provides facilities and infrastructure to support various program manager programs."
Martin said he had a sign placed on the front of the building listing 15 capabilities housed in the regional support center so units can become familiar with the one-stop support provided there. The list which includes radar, radios, customs and biometrics is not all-inclusive.
Martin listed at least 20 separate supported systems but noted that each system can have a number of variants and workers must be trained on each variant. Levels of support available vary but range from full maintenance and fly-away support to direct exchange to packing, wrapping and shipping. Many technicians are located at forward-deployed locations or are available to fly out on short notice to supply parts and expertise.
Support for Program Manager programs and equipment varies and is determined by the program manager. Support for Program Manager Ground Sensors vehicle optics sensor systems, for example, include new equipment and refresher training for operators and maintainers; de-installing old or faulty equipment and installing new equipment; full maintenance; fly-away support, and technicians located at 10 locations in theater. Martin said his technicians will also pack, wrap and ship between operating, storage and maintenance locations. Support for Persistent Threat Detection Systems, the un-blinking eye in the sky, includes pack, wrap and ship only.
Martin said the contractors working in the RSC are 'multi-skilled' and that helps reduce personnel numbers and costs. April Picart, an electronics technician who works on Harris and Thales radios, formerly supported only one system, but now supports multiple systems. She said her work is important because vehicles must have radio capability to be considered mission ready.
While training is not a primary mission for the ESSC/RSC, contractors in the generator maintenance and environmental control unit shops have Soldiers working with them to increase their skills and knowledge base.
"I've learned a lot in the last four to six months," said Spc. Steven R. Murphy, 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, and a native of Knoxville, Tennessee. "I'm learning valuable tools to take back to Fort Campbell."
"The more they can learn the better," said Robert Stephens, ESSC generator maintenance shop lead.
Spc. Mark A. Ocampo, a Pohnpei, Micronesia native, also with the 2-44th ADA, is working with Peter 'Pete' McGinnis, ECU lead. He said he's a wheel vehicle mechanic, but working with McGinnis is giving him skills in other areas.
"I've learned a lot and can now troubleshoot generators," he said. "I'll be good in three fields."
Andrew L. Thompson, CECOM senior command representative to the 401st Army Field Support Brigade, observed that everyone who works in the ESSC/RSC is very committed to supporting the Warfighter
"Treat every system and piece of equipment as if your child has to use it" he said. "Once a Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, and Marine go outside the perimeter they don't get a chance to re-do their situation, the services and systems we provide has to be 100%.....ALL THE TIME….EVERYTIME."