Author’s note: This article is the third in a four-part series on Tobyhanna Army Depot’s forward support missions.
TOBYHANNA, Pennsylvania -- Forward deployments enable Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD) to deliver mission support directly to Soldiers in the field, ensuring they are ready for any conflict that comes their way.
The depot’s Field Logistics Support Directorate (FLSD) supports global warfighter readiness with a multifaceted strategy, utilizing Language Labs, New Equipment Training, forward Field Service Representatives, and formal deployments.
One of the depot’s most unique forward missions is its Language Labs program, which sends employees across the world to install language learning centers. The centers provide self-guided training for foreign nationals learning the English language. These installations require hardware and software expertise, giving employees from various directorates the opportunity to work together abroad in remote locations such as Mozambique, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
John Kostiak is a training instructor in FLSD and travels extensively in support of Language Labs. He says hard work and a commitment to constantly growing has been key for the mission.
“This important workload continues to evolve,” Kostiak said. “We started by simply installing labs; now our satisfied customers are coming back for more services like modernization and sustainment support.”
Although travel is on hold at the moment, Eric Walker, chief of the Forward Operations and Training Branch, says the Language Lab mission is always in need of volunteers with electrical or computer backgrounds. Those interested should gain supervisory approval and contact Walker directly.
Walker also outlined the growing New Equipment Training (NET) mission. This program provides training directly to Army units receiving new assets such as the Common Remotely Operated Weapons System (CROWS). Courses such as the one-week Operator/Maintenance training ensure warfighters have lifesaving equipment and are fully prepared to use it when necessary.
“NET is a really great program because it benefits Soldiers and our workforce,” he said, adding that his training instructors subsequently provide familiarization training to depot employees when equipment, such as the CROWS, arrives for initial repair.
Forward personnel also provide long-term support for critical weapons systems such as the Tactical Ground Station (TGS), one of the most powerful Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) tools in the U.S. Army for Geospatial Intelligence. The TGS analyzes terrain and structures in a given location to determine how it may be used by Soldiers, and spots potential threats in the area. The system can also receive near real-time full-motion video feeds with its embedded receiver suite in unmanned aerial vehicles, sending the information to ISR imagery analysts.
FLSD personnel provide hardware and component support, technical troubleshooting, post-deployment Resets, and software upgrades to all of the nearly 100 fielded TGS Systems that the Army and National Guard rely on, all around the world. Team Tobyhanna has one Field Service Representative (FSR) deployed at all times to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait on a six-month rotation – a position that serves multiple areas of operation throughout the Middle East.
Jeffrey Spathelf is one of those FSRs, and he values the opportunity to work side by side with Soldiers.
“It is quite rewarding, working with the most knowledgeable collection of people I have ever met - including the service members,” said Spathelf. “It has also been a great experience for personal development, adapting my skills as the (TGS) system has evolved.”
Another group of the FSRs repair the Combat Service Support (CSS) Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT). The CSS VSAT is a two-way satellite ground station that can be quickly setup to deliver voice and data communications to Soldiers in remote areas both in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, and in overseas locations. Wherever Soldiers operate, you are likely to find a VSAT.
The newest version of the VSAT system is the Inflatable Satellite Antenna (ISA) VSAT. With a lighter weight and more versatility, the ISA allows the warfighter to remain adaptable across multiple domains.
Equipment Specialist Richard Simpson has worked the VSAT program since 2007. He applauds the diverse team of FSRs that continually make the program a success.
“We have overcome many challenges dealing with the movement of systems and making sure that the units continue to have great support no matter where they are deployed in the world”, said Simpson.
Field Logistics Support personnel are also providing hardware and software maintenance, and repairs of the Standard Army Management Information Systems (STAMIS) for the Army at Forward Repair Activities (FRAs) in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait; Bagram, Afghanistan; Ft. Bragg, NC; Ft. Hood, TX; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA.
STAMIS is the Army’s logistical Information Technology (IT) system that supports property books, retail supply, aviation logistics, tactical financial management, army system maintenance, army ammunition systems, and medical field level information systems.
The STAMIS program has been one of Tobyhanna’s longest running deployment support efforts. Joseph McCabe is a subject matter expert for STAMIS, having worked the mission as an equipment specialist for over 10 years.
“As someone who has deployed to multiple locations and also works at the stateside FRAs, I know firsthand how the warfighter depends on Team Tobyhanna to keep their logistical IT systems operational,” said McCabe. “It means everything to know that I directly support the warfighter.”
McCabe says there is an old saying shared among FLSD team members: “The sun never sets on Tobyhanna.” With forward support locations all around the world, Team Tobyhanna remains poised and ready to answer the Army’s call for critical support in the field.