By Master Sgt. Jeff Lowry, Indiana National Guard HeadquartersJanuary 10, 2018
FRANKLIN, Ind. -- A wise man said, "all problems are communication problems."
With that in mind, Indiana National Guard soldiers with the 738th Signal Company fielded a communication system that could be a solution.
The communication system, known as Direct Incident Response Emergency Communication Terminal, allows the National Guard to communicate with many different local, state and national first-response organizations.
"The DIRECT system is important because we're using it to interact with local government agencies like the fire departments, police departments and EMS," said Spc. Nick Gleason, a 738th signal support specialist. "So when there are natural disasters and there's a loss of power and communications, we can come in and provide 4G and Wi-Fi. Basically we can provide communications when no one else can."
Gleason's experience with the system dates to September in the run-up to support hurricane relief efforts. Though the 738th was called off, Gleason gained valuable time with the system's intricacies, and he is one of the most experienced within his company on the system.
So Gleason saw a state-active duty exercise in January as a good time to learn even more and help out his fellow Guardsmen to maintain unit and personal readiness.
"I'm excited to learn a little more about it. There's a lot of stuff to go into it," said Gleason. "We cross train and learn from each other. It's really two systems. We have half the people who know one system, the other half know the other system. Then we integrate and cross train, and it's a learning experience for everybody."
The DIRECT system also relies on two other military communications system -- the Joint Network Node and the Warfighter Information Network - Tactical. The systems include computers, antennas, servers, switches, wireless access points, Humvees and phones.
"It's a great system. It allows all the emergency responders to talk to each other, because the fire departments have different frequency than the police departments and police departments have several different radio frequencies depending on what their purposes are," said James McNicholas, a contractor who aides and assists service members in the setup of the DIRECT system. "It allows all factions in emergency situations to be able to talk to each other, which is sometimes difficult now. This integrates everything together. It's a good problem solver."
In addition to helping in emergency, first-response situations and helping maintain readiness, the DIRECT system also helps the Indiana National Guard maintain its cutting edge.
"The DIRECT system is a state asset and will enhance the Indiana National Guard's ability to respond to stateside emergencies," said 2nd Lt. Antonio Archer, a platoon leader with the 738th. "This DIRECT system will help bolster our capabilities to uphold our responsibilities to the state."
While the DIRECT system keeps Hoosier Guardsmen at the tip of the spear -- Indiana is one of 16 states to receive the system -- the state-active duty exercise helps unit and personal readiness.
"The SADEX gives our soldiers a real-life scenario to train and become proficient with their equipment," said Archer. "We can set up and tear down our equipment all day, but giving the training purpose and creating a life-like scenario that our soldiers might experience, takes the training to a higher level and gives the leaders a chance to work out any inefficiencies prior to a possible real-life mission."
With this DIRECT system and its increased interoperability, the 738th and the Indiana National Guard will remain relevant, adaptive and prepared for today's challenges and tomorrow's threats.