FORT DETRICK, Md. – For Company A, 53rd Signal Battalion’s Wideband Satellite Communications Operations Center’s Soldiers, assuring satellite connectivity to its high-profile customers is of the utmost priority.
The WSOC, one of the U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade’s five centers, is responsible for the command and control of 10 wideband global satellites and two defensive communication subsystem satellites, said Cpt. Amber Hagy, A Company, 53rd Signal Brigade, officer-in-charge at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
“The satellites are responsible for communications with the entire Department of Defense, along with multiple international partners,” Hagy said. “The overall mission of the WSOC and its operators and maintainers is to provide payload control, transmission control, and defensive space control to the warfighter.”
WSOCs defend these assigned satellites, terminals and users, while protecting the wideband spectrum and maintaining the health of the satellites.
One role of the WSOC is to provide satellite access for the country’s United States Army Forces Command units as they train to fight at their home stations and Combat Training Center rotations.
Additionally, the company often works closely with the U.S. Navy’s Second, Third, Fourth and Tenth Fleets, along with supporting each Joint Readiness Training Center and National Training Center rotation, various FORSCOM and command post exercises, and numerous Navy and Marine pre-deployment exercises.
“Due to our proximity to our nation's capital, we support many high-priority users such as the White House Communications Agency, State Department, National Airborne Operations Center, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” Hagy said. “With the upcoming presidential election, you can imagine how often the president and other VIPs are traveling. Company A provides the satellite communications for the presidential WHCA teams, including Air Force One.”
For the COVID-19 crisis, Company A, along with the other WSOCs, aided Navy hospital ships on both U.S. coasts, said Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
“The WSOCs were able to provide real-time, near instantaneous support to make sure the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort got the right data rate and wideband support that they needed so those ships could conduct their operations specifically from the perspective of them being able to do telemedicine onboard,” Karbler said. “This takes up quite a bit of bandwidth for satellite use.”
To be stationed at a WSOC, a Soldier goes through extensive training. They must be certified as a Satellite Communications Systems Operator/Maintainer, which is accomplished by attending a year-and-a-half course at Fort Gordon, Georgia.
Upon arrival at their WSOC assignment, Soldiers have an additional 12 to 18 months to develop technical mastery in all areas of their position. SATCOM systems operators install, operate and maintain tactical multichannel satellite communications ground terminals, systems, networks and associated equipment, while also performing maintenance on their equipment, vehicles and generators, explained Spc. Wolmy Louigene, a network controller at Company A.
“It’s a long process with a lot of training,” Louigene said. “But when you possess all this training, you are set up for success in the civilian sector when you leave the military.”
Company A and Company B at Fort Meade, Maryland, comprise the brigade’s two continental U.S. WSOCs. The remaining WSOCs are located at Wahiawa, Hawaii; Landstuhl, Germany; and Okinawa, Japan.