By Spc. C. Terrell TurnerJanuary 29, 2012
FORT DEVENS, Mass. -- Battles can be won or lost in the blink of an eye, making technological connectivity on today's battlefield more crucial than ever. In a rapidly changing combat environment, the ability for human resources units to establish, maintain and exchange reliable communications with leaders and other units about casualties, personnel issues and other information is vital.
During the Silver Scimitar 2012 training exercise, human resources Soldiers assigned to casualty operations received training on how to operate the Very Small Aperture Terminal, a portable satellite system that can data-connect with other VSATs and with network architectures established in theater. VSAT provides critical connectivity in an austere environment when other options are not available, and has been used to support Army operations since at least 2003.
"Using VSAT has been a great experience. When our casualty assistance center communications went out several times in Kuwait, we had communications backup within minutes," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Stacy Malloy, human resources technician for the Casualty Operations Division of the 14th Human Resources Sustainment Center.
Malloy is currently stationed in Kuwait and on temporary orders to Silver Scimitar. He's one of a number of instructors and subject matter experts who have dealt with the technology while deployed, and can share valuable lessons learned with Soldiers participating in Silver Scimitar. He recalled the HR mission prior to the fielding of the VSAT and the significance of this technology for his Soldiers.
"Before this system, we worked through the G-6 [chief information officer] and they would provide static IP addresses," he said. "We weren't able to do it on our own. Now this [technology] allows us to go anywhere and have communications; send emails, send casualty reports and [have] more capabilities through VOIP [voice over internet protocol]."
While not all Soldiers training at Silver Scimitar have used the VSAT, many are familiar with it.
"I was first introduced to this system in 2006," said Spc. Ronaldo Fajardo, a human resources specialist assigned to the 8th Human Resources Sustainment Center based at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. "I haven't had a chance to use it and these skills are temporary. If you don't use the knowledge, you lose it."
To get the hands-on experience needed, Soldiers assembled and disassembled the satellite system and learned about its capabilities.
Despite not having operating the system, Fajardo was much more comfortable with using it after receiving the training.
"I like it," he said. "It's like plug and play. Once you follow the instructions, it's pretty easy to put up."
Soldiers appreciated both the depth of the instruction and the subject matter expertise of the instructors.
"I think the training was outstanding. They provided detailed information in order for us to perform our job when we are in theater," said Staff Sgt. Tyra Thompson, casualty operations noncommissioned officer, 8th HRSC. "I have used the system before. The HRSC conducted multiple training events on how to set up and tear down the VSAT. I would definitely feel comfortable [with] setting up the system in the field."