WIESBADEN, Germany -- Liaison officers at a strategic satellite communications facility in Germany are proving to be a vital link for enabling communications and mission command for thousands of U.S. and multinational soldiers who are participating in exercise Saber Guardian 17 across Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania.
The exercise is a U.S. Army Europe-led, multinational exercise taking place from July 11 - 20, 2017. Approximately 25,000 service members from 30 allied and partner nations will take part to highlight participant deterrence capabilities, specifically the ability to mass forces at any given time anywhere in Europe.
Tactical satellite terminals on the ground in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania connect to satellites in space through the Enterprise SATCOM Gateway Landstuhl, or ESG-L, in Germany, which prioritizes and directs services and bandwidth. "Lightning Ops," the 2nd Theater Signal Brigade's forward Theater Network Operations Center at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania, monitors the Saber Guardian 17 networks and tells the ESG-L how to prioritize traffic to ensure communications support is synchronized with the maneuver main effort on the ground. When Lightning Ops needs to talk to the ESG-L, they call 1st. Lt. Peter Miller.
"My job is to make sure the (Regional Hub Node) [a part of the ESG-L] and Lightning Ops are on the same page," explained Miller.
Miller, assigned to the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, serves as the liaison officer, or LNO, from Lightning Ops to the ESG-L. He's responsible for coordinating priorities and requirements with the ESG-L through Lightning Ops to provide better service and support to the tactical signal assets in the field.
The ESG-L is the largest Army-operated SATCOM facility outside the continental U.S. It provides warfighters on the ground, air and sea, as well as other Department of Defense and U.S. government agencies, with internet services via satellite anywhere across five continents and three oceans.
Miller said he attends operations meetings and shift change briefings at the ESG-L, where he provides updates from Lightning Ops.
"This provides me the opportunity to dialogue with both the RHN's operation cell and technicians on the floor. The RHN then troubleshoots the necessary tactical assemblages within Saber Guardian 17 to ensure service delivery to the warfighter," Miller said.
In addition to Miller, other units participating in Saber Guardian 17, including the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, also have LNOs assigned to the ESG-L to synchronize communications between their units.
"One of the creative solutions [for Saber Guardian 17] was to restructure the way we used LNOs," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Juan Morales, the ESG-L Global Operations officer.
Before Saber Guardian 17, the LNO served as more of a technician rather than a staff member. But with the restructuring, Morales explained that LNOs can now provide a more effective link between the tactical and the strategic aspects of an exercise, which in turn allows the ESG-L to provide faster, more responsive service and support to Lightning Ops.
"I think this has already payed dividends to clarify the roles of the technicians and have a separate LNO for the exercise," Morales said.
Miller said the biggest challenge has been keeping up with the changing environment on the ground during the exercise.
"The timelines for which terminals accessed on their tactical assemblages changed based on updated mission requirements so making sure the RHN is aware of these changes has been a challenge, but synchronizing with Lightning Ops forward has made it possible," Miller said.
Miller credited Soldiers at the ESG-L and Lightning Ops for the powerful influence that their work has had on the exercise so far.
"The Soldiers here at the RHN have been making a great impact. They are knowledgeable, determined and always willing to help. Additionally, having a Theater Network Operations Center forward has created a buffer for the RHN to focus on the priority troubleshooting tickets," Miller said.
2nd Theater Signal Brigade conducts Department of Defense Information Network operations to enable mission command in support of U.S. Army, Joint and multinational operations throughout the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of operation.