By Carrie E. David (SMDC/ARSTRAT)October 5, 2016
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama -- A fleet commander floating in the Atlantic Ocean cannot locate a satellite to establish a secret communication line because he has veered off course. What does he do? He calls the Soldiers of the Wideband Satellite Communications Operations Center.
There are five WSOCs throughout the world: Fort Detrick, Maryland; Fort Meade, Maryland; Wahiawa, Hawaii; Landstuhl, Germany; and Okinawa, Japan, and their primary mission is to provide wideband payload control, transmission control, and defensive space control for the Warfighter.
"We ensure that the Department of Defense Wideband Satellite Constellation continuously provides support to peacetime, contingency, surge, and crisis action plans," said Capt. Jessica Yahn, C Company, 53rd Signal Battalion commander over the WSOC in Germany. "WSOCs are the first line of defense for assigned satellites, terminals and users. We protect the wideband spectrum and maintain the health of the satellites that provide it. The WSOC is the center of gravity for Fighting SATCOM."
Staff Sgt. Raymond Flores, operations noncommissioned officer of the WSOC in Germany, explained their role in the satellite communications process.
"The WSOC is a crucial part of the Warfighter mission," Flores said. "On a daily basis we support multiple exercises and missions from training to special operations support."
Once a tactical terminal is set-up and the data package is established with the user's distant end or gateway, the user calls the WSOC. WSOC controllers ensure the user is pointed at the appropriate satellite and assists them, if needed. Once the user successfully acquires the satellite, they can start passing communications.
"We ensure users get the appropriate satellite resources that they are allocated and also ensure that the gateway is set-up to receive their mission," Flores said. "Once their mission is up, we continually monitor the spectrum to prevent degradation or interruptions to the link."
If a user begins to experience link issues, WSOC controllers react quickly to troubleshoot with the user, and in conjunction with the user's gateway.
"If the issues are not equipment related to either side of the mission, we then work with the appropriate agencies to identify the problem and vigorously work toward link restoral," Flores said.
Yahn stressed that WSOC controllers are not only monitoring the spectrum to assist the Warfighter, but they also do so to ensure the health and welfare of the satellites being utilized.
"The Wideband Satellite Constellation is a precious Department of Defense resource, and demand for the resource continues to rise. Every signal officer knows the value of bandwidth." Yahn said. "Greater bandwidth translates to more robust command and control. It is absolutely critical that WSOC controllers are superb stewards of this precious resource."
Yahn said that WSOC in Germany supports U.S. Central Command, U.S. Africa Command, U.S. European Command, and others in addition to international partners.
"Soldiers of the 53d Signal Battalion provide uninterrupted mission assurance to access the Department of Defense Information Network for thousands of global users across the joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational user base," Yahn said. "They maintain positive control with end users to ensure that critical communications, whether passed through a strategic terminal in Iraq, a ground unit, or a submarine surfacing, are robust and reliable."
The 53rd Signal Battalion is part of the 1st Space Brigade, which is one of two brigades that support the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.