Erbil, Iraq – Coalition and U.S. forces deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility leverage COMM-I signal officers to streamline warfighter communication networks in theater.
“U. S. Central Command developed the concept based on different branches being on the same installation and the recognition that the communication integrator can help deliver the capabilities to the warfighter in the fastest way without conflicting with the other components and saving money,” said Air Force Col. David. A. Castor, who served as director of communications, Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve.
The communication integrator, or COMM-I, in coordination with the communication provider, implements Centcom guidance and oversight, providing or coordinating for robust communications network capabilities of voice, video and data services, Castor said.
The COMM-I works closely with the communication provider to provide or coordinate services which are categorized in six sub-functions: Frequency Management, Communications Security, Cybersecurity, Transmission, Technical Control Facility and Base Infrastructure support at their designated location, he said.
“There is a limited number of resources for just doing communication projects on the base,” said Castor.
The COMM-I comes in when you have multiple components on an installation, you can have competition for access to the resources on how the spectrum and how communications get on the base, he said.
Communication networks and requirements are diverse across the board, calling for strategic services to navigate through strategic and tactical networks, requires the COMM-I to understand the network capabilities and requirements, the colonel said.
Army Maj. Gloria Brown, Union III COMM-I, said not just anyone can become a COMM-I.
“You have to have someone that’s knowledgeable with signal,” Brown said.
“You have to have someone that is able to manage different projects at the same time, knowing how to redistribute things,” she said.
Marine Capt. William Butler, COMM-I at Erbil, Iraq, said that without command or taking authority, it falls upon the COMM-I to employ transformational leadership skills, develop relationships, and understand operational command objectives to properly merge the communication requirements and capabilities.
Colonel Castor said Union III is a textbook case.
“A prime example is Union III, where the COMM-I has loose leadership, a team made up of Local Network Enterprise Center Combined Joint-6 and other communications resources- without real tasking authority, but work to the benefit of our customer,” he said. In the military, the number “6” is the staff designation for the communication and information systems shop.
The colonel said the Union III team implemented Battlefield Information Collection and Exploitation System, or BICES on the joint operating center.
Also, at Union III, while U.S. forces rely on SIPR, Coalition forces use the Coalition Partner Network, or CPN-X, he said. SIPR is shorthand for Secret Internet Protocol Router Network.
“Understanding the machine, it is all about the prioritizing the projects and having the perspective of the operational command objectives to properly prioritize projects to achieve those objectives and managing relationships,” said Castor.