In January 2005, Shannon Jones deployed to Iraq as an Army signal officer for the 3rd Infantry Division (ID) -- the first Army unit to receive and deploy with the Joint Network Node (JNN) network now known as "Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 1."

Following that tour, as the operations manager for Project Manager (PM) WIN-T Increment 1, Jones leveraged her invaluable experience for the continued advancement of the Army's tactical communications network.

"I was able to use the very first systems and then watch as we evolved the system and the architecture to meet emerging requirements," said Jones. "I feel a great sense of pride when I see a WIN-T system at a brigade command post and know that it's providing them communication."

As an active member of the Army National Guard, Jones is preparing to deploy again later this year as an operations officer (S3) with an expeditionary signal battalion, where she will once again have her hands on the equipment and network that she helped put in the field. She plans to return to PM WIN-T following that deployment.

"Shannon's operational deployments provide the PM invaluable feedback on how well many of our systems are meeting the needs of the Soldier," said Col. Ed Swanson, project manager for WIN-T. "With each deployment she brings a wealth of experience back to the acquisition community, allowing us to better understand how the equipment is being used, what works well and what needs improved."

Similar to a home Internet connection, WIN-T Increment 1 provides Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications down to battalion level units "at-the-quick-halt." WIN-T Increment 2, expected to be fielded to Army brigade combat teams starting in October, introduces networking radios, enhances Network Operations (NetOps) for network planning and monitoring, pushes capability to the company level and supports operations while "on-the-move."

As an outgrowth of a 3rd ID Operational Needs Statement, a process that allows urgent requests from theater for equipment to be identified and rapidly fielded, the JNN network was developed to bridge the gap between the outdated Mobile Subscriber Equipment communications system and the full on-the-move WIN-T network capability.

"So we were the first to receive JNN and the first to deploy it to Iraq," Jones said. "Having us take it to Iraq was kind of a test for the Army to see which way they wanted to go with it."

The 3rd ID received the system in September of 2004, deployed to Iraq with it in January 2005, with their tour ending a year later. After that, once the system was successfully doing the job in Iraq, the Army made the decision to field additional Army divisions with JNN and it just "took off" from there. Eventually in 2007 the JNN program merged into PM WIN-T and was renamed WIN-T Increment 1, Jones said.

With all of her experience as a 3rd ID signal officer with the WIN-T network, Jones was a perfect fit to help the Army expand the system, so at the end of her tour in 2006 she went to work for PM WIN-T.

Jones brings a unique skill set to the program office, with an operational understanding of how communications work from a signal officer's perspective at a tactical level, coupled with a thorough grasp of the technology, said Lt. Col. Greg Coile, product manager (PdM) for WIN-T Increment 1 and PdM for Satellite Communications.

"Her ability to solve problems from both an operational and technical perspective, and then translate issues back and forth between the operational community in theater and the WIN-T engineers, helps ensure that when the capability is deployed it will meet the operational requirements," Coile said. "Shannon has been an integral part of the success of WIN-T Increment 1."

Due in part to her contributions to the program, this August WIN-T Increment 1 will hit a major milestone when its fielding will be 100 percent complete, providing for the first time a WIN-T Increment 1-equipped force across the entire Army. In roughly the same timeframe, WIN-T Increment 1 upgrades, which establish a common operational baseline across the force, will also be complete. Army units originally fielded with JNN are being upgraded to this common baseline. The upgrade provides newer technology for increased capability, a longer equipment life cycle and more efficient technology refreshments.

"It's amazing to me what we have accomplished in such a short timeframe," Jones said. "If you think about it, from 2004 to 2012, we took a system from its very roots, its very beginnings, and fully fielded the Army, and now we are already working on its next upgrade. I can't believe we did it that quickly."

In July the Army began tackling a new upgrade endeavor to provide all WIN-T Increment 1 units with an additional capability. The WIN-T Increment 1 Colorless Core Modification Work Order (MWO) incorporates a colorless core security enclave that secures data and increases interoperability with WIN-T Increment 2, while providing additional operational flexibility to the network. The MWO is projected to be complete in fiscal year 2016.

"We are always in very close communication with the units and are very responsive to their needs, and that closeness has really done good things," Jones said. "The units need that kind of attention and communication, because sometimes the network is their lifeline. Your computer can break, all sorts of other things can break, but nothing works when the network's down."