By Josh DavidsonJanuary 29, 2008
Crossing through the gates of Fort Hood, Texas, are many Soldiers who will soon deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan to support the Global War on Terrorism. There, the staff of the U.S. Army Materiel Command\'s Central Technical Support Facility works to ensure the quality of the systems with which they will deploy.
"The CTSF team has a real sense of urgency about them, when they see a problem or an issue, they fix it the right way to ensure the best possible product is fielded to the warfighter," said Col. Steven Drake, director of the CTSF.
"This is because many team members either know somebody or are related to someone who will use the product in combat." Systems currently being used in Iraq and Afghanistan are supported through a deliberate multi-echelon process, Drake said.
The CTSF Technical Division, along with the other organizations that are resident on the CTSF campus, is a part of this process. The resident organizations at the CTSF include the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command Software Engineering Center, which provides digital systems engineers and field service representatives to deploying units.
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications Tactical's Battle Command Network Support Directorate provides around-the clock digital system support at the CTSF.
During a unit's training exercise, the DSEs and CTSF network engineers help resolve a multitude of network and digital system issues and provide over-the-shoulder digital battle command system training. Additionally, DSE's and Network Engineers will deploy to support the same unit in Iraq and Afghanistan during the unit's reception, staging onward movement and integration period.
Another part of the multi-echelon support process is that each combat brigade deploys into theater with an embedded logistical team of which the DSE is a part.
Any issues that the brigade-level DSE can not resolve are passed up to the embedded Division-Level DSE. If the division-level DSE still cannot resolve the issue, he or she will work the issue over the phone with an FSR or will request that the FSR is sent to the Brigade DSE's location to help repair the product.
An issue that involves multiple systems for which an expedient determination can't be made as to which system is not functioning properly is passed back to the CTSF's Technical Division test floor. Here, the systems will run in a sub section of the test floor dedicated to current force operations in order to specify the issue.
"The data from (the BCNSD) is passed to us and then we help them try to resolve issues as necessary," Drake said.
"It really is an experiential capability that has developed here at the CTSF over the years," he said, "They have seen so many different problems and issues that a lot of corporate knowledge now resides here."
Key personnel and positions have remained mostly intact over the years.
"So, there's a lot of corporate knowledge, and they draw from that as they see a problem arise. Many times a solution set developed previously can be used to solve a current problem," Drake said.
Network engineers from the CTSF are on call 24/7 should an issue arise.
Nearly 200 staff members exist on the CTSF's core team. Project managers from other organizations supply about 700 personnel to assist with the CTSF's core mission, which is the integration and certification testing of the Army's net-centric systems.
Several team meetings are held to keep the large staff synchronized, Drake said. Synchronization meetings are held twice per week. During test events, these brief meetings known as "hot washes" are held early in the morning and at the end of each day.
"The pace of those events are so quick that if you did not have daily 'hot washes,' you would continually have people out of sync," Drake said.
Seeing Soldiers entering and exiting Fort Hood's gates each day keeps the CTSF focused on who they support. Many employees are related to or are close friends with the Soldiers who will deploy from the installation.
"It keeps your focus very, very sharp on the warfighter," he said.