LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (June 3, 2019) -- The Army is fielding expeditionary network communications equipment across all three Army components -- Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserve -- to increase operational flexibility, mobility, resiliency and lethality.
Army and National Guard leaders and signal Soldiers came together during the 2019 Army National Guard G6 Mission Command Workshop, in May, in Little Rock, to discuss these and other network modernization initiatives.
"It's all about maximizing total Army readiness, operating as a total force," said Brig. Gen. Robert Edmonson II, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-6, U.S. Army Forces Command. "If we have a compo 1 (Active Duty) solution that doesn't include compo 2 (National Guard) and compo 3 (Reserve) we are probably heading down the wrong road. We are on a journey that facilitates mission command and working through 20 years of independent stove-piped systems. We are converging networks and mission command systems, making them simpler to use, allowing commanders to make more effective decisions across the total force."
The Army's Project Manager Tactical Network, assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), is fielding a variety of these new expeditionary network communications systems to Army National Guard units, including the inflatable Transportable Tactical Command Communications (T2C2) satellite terminal; the high-bandwidth range-extending Terrestrial Transmission Line Of Sight (TRILOS) Radio; the Modular Communication Node--Advanced Enclave (an expeditionary solution to exchange intelligence data); and an enhanced version of the Global Broadcast System (which provides one-way transmission of large data files, like maps and video). Additionally, the Army has been fielding the Army National Guard with the Disaster Incident Response Emergency Communications Terminal (DIRECT) tool suite to support first responders during civil missions such as disaster relief.
Today, 62 percent of the Signal Regiment does not reside in a signal formation; they reside in maneuver, infantry or artillery formations, said Brigadier General Christopher Eubank, U.S. Army 39th Chief of Signal and Signal School Commandant.
"Just by ratio, there is going to be a point in time where non-signal Soldiers are helping out with signal communication equipment," Eubanks said. "So, simplicity is a key factor as we look at all of our communications moving forward. We need to pull complexity off of that maneuver element and pull it [to a] higher [headquarters element], and while we do that, make equipment that is easily installed, operated and maintained regardless of Military Operational Specialty."
Key attributes of the T2C2 satellite terminal include ease of use and rapid set up. PM Tactical Network fielded the first Army National Guard unit with T2C2 in August 2018, and more recently completed fielding T2C2-Lite to the Maryland Army National Guard 58th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade (EMIB). Because T2C2 is inflatable it enables units to have a larger antenna for increased capability and bandwidth efficiency in a smaller transport footprint compared to a traditional hard-sided satellite dish.
"T2C2 enables independent, rapid and flexible connectivity," said Col. Julie Minde, commander of the 58th EMIB. "It's critical for us to have expeditionary communications to make decisions. We need to gain and maintain information dominance in multiple domains, particularly regarding peer and near peer threats."
During Hurricanes Florence and Michael last fall, Army National Guard units successfully used their DIRECT communications tool suite for the first time during a real-world mission. When local commercial phone and internet were down in some locations, the system was the only capability available to connect emergency 911 calls to support relief efforts.
DIRECT enables Army National Guard units to provide non-military first responders with commercial phone and internet access, and Commercial 4G and Wi-Fi. The system leverages a unit's organic tactical network equipment and the Army's two U.S. based Regional Hub Nodes, to relay information both locally and anywhere in the world. DIRECT also comes with a radio bridging voice cross-banding capability that connects military and first responder radios operating on different frequencies and interconnects radios, cell phones, and internet phones for seamless collaboration.
"DIRECT provides that needed interoperable communications," said Lt. Col. Lesley Kipling, ARNG G6 Mission Command Branch Chief. (In June Kipling will take on a new role as the Army's Network Cross Functional Team (N-CFT) Team Lead for Common Operating Environment, Interoperability and Command Post.) "During Hurricane Michael response efforts DIRECT provided a way for local community officials to request additional resources, instead of having to drive several miles back out in the incident area. We were thrilled to see it working so well."
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The U.S. Army Project Manager Tactical Network is assigned to Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, which develops, acquires, fields and supports the Army's mission command network to ensure force readiness. This critical Army modernization priority delivers tactical communications so commanders and Soldiers can stay connected and informed at all times, even in the most austere and hostile environments. PEO C3T is delivering the network to regions around the globe, enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to a user base that includes the Army's joint, coalition and other mission partners.