By Spc. Maurice Galloway, 17th Fires Public AffairsMay 19, 2010
Monitoring a battle space during a deployment takes constant effort and an enormous amount of cooperation from each of the Soldiers in the Tactical Operations Center.
Soldiers from the 17th Fires Brigade Current Operations (CUOPS) recently provided insight on what it takes to make their TOC on Contingency Operating Base Basra tick.
"We maintain stability, plan operations, track movements and missions of both U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces on a daily bases," said Sgt. 1st Class Averell Thompson, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 17th FiB, the current operations battle captain and a native of Starkville, Miss.
The TOC consists of a collection of Soldiers from different sections - such as Intelligence, Air Traffic Control, and Air Defense - all providing the latest information from each of their sections in an effort to keep the commander completely informed.
The 17th FiB deployed to Basra, Iraq in July 2009 and has maintained operational control by, with, and through the Iraqi Security Forces throughout Basra Province.
While deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 17th FiB has been tasked with a role not normally assigned to a fires brigade due to its unique manning and structure. Junior Soldiers are handling similar positions and responsibilities that normally fall to senior level sergeants and officers in other maneuver brigades.
"We're being given the opportunity to shoulder a large amount of responsibility. Not only does this show the adaptability of the brigade's Soldiers, but also highlights the flexibility that field artillery is known for Army-wide," said Sgt. Courtney Kargel, HHB, 17th FiB Intelligence battle captain and native of Fort Myers, Fla.
As missions are conducted throughout the Thunderbolt Brigade's operational environment, the responsibility of monitoring the movement of troops falls to the CUOPS.
Sgt. 1st Class Jose Dejesus-Benn, HHB, 17th FiB battle noncommissioned officer, is responsible for tracking ground and air movement of the brigade's assets throughout the area of operations.
"Nothing moves throughout our battle space without me knowing. I have to constantly monitor all lines of communication to ensure that, in the event of an accident, we know where to send help to our troops," said Dejesus-Benn a native of Arroyo, Puerto Rico.
Thompson said that each section plays a critical role in maintaining situational awareness of the operational environment.
"We feed off each other's information. Realizing what each component needs to be successful and helping them is what makes our TOC run efficiently and ultimately develops our battle rhythm," Thompson said.
Another key piece to the TOC is the Future Operations (FUOPS). Sgt. 1st Class Miguel Hernandez, HHB, 17th FiB FUOPS NCO, has the complex task of using a comprehensive yet intuitive tracker to document, synchronize, and integrate all missions each unit plans to conduct in the battle space within a 72-hour period.
"I provide foresight of all future movements around the battle space. This allows the commander to know exactly where each of his assets is going to be well in advance," said Hernandez.
With so many vital missions being conducted across the battle space on a 24/7 basis, it's clear that the Soldiers who run the TOC have their hands full.
"It's our job to survey this operational battle space and to make sure that each and every Soldier that leaves this base is accounted for and protected," said Dejesus-Benn.