CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – Soldiers of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command increased unit readiness by conducting a rehearsal of concept drill here Oct. 9.
“Spears Ready” Soldiers of the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, deployed here to staff the 1st TSC operational command post, rehearsed moving the Sustainment Operations Center (SOC) to an alternate location to increase systems and mission command resilience.
“Really, what this exercise provides us is the capability to move our mission command capabilities from the SOC to a different location,” said Col. Christopher M. McCreery, the 1st TSC-OCP’s operations officer. 1st TSC handles all logistics in the U.S. Central Command area of operations.
“This is a steppingstone opportunity also to be able to move to a tactical operation," he said. "Really, what we're trying to facilitate is identifying requirements, both in personnel and equipment, that we're going to need to be able to facilitate mission command for the commanding general.”
All the command’s staff sections and the Headquarters and Headquarters Company were tasked with moving at least one of their phones and one of their computers from the OCP to an alternate location.
Once the staff sections established connectivity, the team established a video conference connection with the Soldiers back at the SOC.
“We had to make sure that everything was lined up properly,” he said. “We did some refinements throughout that process… we did an AAR as more of a hot wash aspect of facilitating the process, [and to] improve it." AAR is shorthand for an after-action report, which is a lookback assessment.
McCreery said the ROC drill was a learning experience. The team will take what they learned and continue to refine and improve plans. He also noted that deliberate planning and prioritization of both the personnel and capabilities will enable the team’s success in the future.
“We're going to operate in a constrained environment basically, where we're not going to have all the capability at our disposal,” he said. “We're going to have to make some considerations of what we're going to have to be able to skinny down to, to be able to properly execute the mission—so, it's really about prioritization.”
Sgt. Maj. Jeovannie Melendez, 1st TSC-OCP's signal sergeant major, said his Soldiers helped the other sections with the critical disconnect and connect process.
“The biggest challenge was to train the user on how to properly disconnect their equipment from their current stations, pack it properly, and set it up again in a new location,” Melendez said.
The native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, said the process is not simple.
“It is for the signal soldiers,” he said. “The user that has never done it before, they get confused because we're talking about multiple computers, multiple screens, and they get overwhelmed with the amount of cables they see.”
The sergeant major said it is also essential to keep unclassified and classified systems segregated when plugging back in at the Jump TOC. Jump TOC is the shorthand for moving operations centers. He noted that there was apprehension from the team about potentially committing a cross-domain violation, so the staff made sure to verify with his personnel before connecting anything.
“They wait, they're calling my people over, and we make sure they're connecting everything right,” he said.
Melendez, who enlisted in the Army in October 2001 in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, said there are no direct cables between the Jump TOC and the SOC; instead, both sites are part of a greater network.
“We had to do some things in the active directory to make sure that our computers work in this building [specifically], in this switch, in this router,” he said. “But other than that, it's mostly plug-and-play.”
If the network went down or were inoperative, the signal section would rely on more complicated equipment. He said it would require partnering with the 335th Signal Command (Theater Provisional), which is based here.
“It will take longer to set up,” he said. “We don't have that equipment, so it's got to come from 335th Signal Command for them to support us with some signal assets, and then that'll take some time for them to bring the equipment to us and set them back up.”
Maj. Derrick Dunlap, the 1st TSC-OCP chief of operations, said, “We’re learning now the time it will take us to get from one location to the other, and the time it'll take us to hook up the new systems and make sure everything works properly.”
The native of Stuttgart, Arkansas, said another challenge was loading the software patches required for the phones and computers from the 1st TSC-OCP to connect to the Jump TOC network.
“Once this is figured out, we're going to break everything down, take it back to our location and then start planning a tactical move,” the major said. “Instead of to a hard location, moving it in the tents, and run everything from the tents.”
During the spring, Soldiers from 1st TSC’s main command post at Fort Knox, Kentucky, deployed here to set up an expeditionary command post and they ran operations from there, even video conference briefings with the commanding general, participants across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and with subordinate units and other partners in the United States.
Dunlap, who first enlisted in the Army Reserve as an equipment records and parts specialist, or 76 Charlie, said he would seek out the 1st TSC-MCP Soldiers who participated in the ECP exercise to gather their lessons learned from their exercise.
"My crew just got on the ground in August, so we’re going to reach back to those guys, get TTPs, ask them what went right and what went wrong, so we won't make the same mistakes they did,” he said. TTP is shorthand for tactics, techniques and procedures.
Capt. Michael Krant, the 1st TSC-OCP SOC battle captain, said the key is always to have an operations center connected and communicating with the remote units.
“This training exercise essentially validates our ability to continue mission command in a dynamic environment,” he said. “If we lose connectivity in our operational command post, what we're able to do is effectively transition the mission command of sustainment operations in the theater to the main command post at Fort Knox while moving over to this location and re-establishing our operational command post in a different area.”
Krant, a native of Lexington, Massachusetts, said the goal is to validate the staff's ability to regain connectivity.
“Essentially, what we're doing is validating the redundancy of communications across the staff in order to synchronize sustainment operations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility,” he said. “As we were tracking the requirements, the requirements were consistently changing, so the ability to have redundant communications and near real-time tracking is critical in the ability to get supplies, personnel, where they needed to be and when they needed to be there or predicting what they're going to need in the near future.”