Keeping systems running is a major peacekeeping chore

Keeping systems running is a major peacekeeping chore

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Since being deployed to Kosovo in mid-April as part of the NATO peacekeeping force, the Army's 82nd Airborne Division has been fighting dirt, dust and water to keep PCs and other systems running.

'The a: drives have really taken a beating, [including] the new computers we deployed with,' said 1st Lt. Troy M. Bertram, signal officer for the 82nd Airborne Division's Task Force 2-505.

The task force's soldiers have seven off-the-shelf notebook PCs of various makes and models as well
as four recently acquired ruggedized Toughbook CF-45 portables from Panasonic Personal Computer Co. of Secaucus, N.J. The Toughbooks have shock-mounted hard drives, full magnesium alloy cases and handles, and water-resistant keyboards.

But ruggedized or not, 'all automation assets have suffered in the elements,' Bertram said.

The task force runs Microsoft Office 97 on all the portables under Microsoft Windows 95.

Using the same software helps the soldiers share data and makes it easier to run cross-service applications, Bertram said.

The 82nd Airborne Division bought the PCs through the Portable-2 indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract held by Government Technology Services Inc. of Chantilly, Va.

To combat systems failures, Bertram and his colleagues have attempted to waterproof all electronic sources and protect equipment from the dirt and dust as much as they can, he said.

The soldiers have even taken to using a canned air product to spray dust off the machines regularly, he said.

The 82nd Airborne Division was the lead American peacekeeping unit deployed to Kosovo after the agreement between NATO and the Yugoslav government that ended Operation Allied Force.

Bertram works with a 13-soldier crew that ensures that battalion headquarters has command and control communications links to the peacekeeping troops. The comm services include voice, FM and single-channel satellite.

The crew's secondary mission is to keep all battalion systems operational.

Bertram keeps track of what the Defense Department calls its automation assets using a Microsoft PowerPoint 97 spreadsheet and diagram.

At ease, storage

The task force is using two external 100M Zip drives from Iomega Corp. of Roy, Utah, as its primary form of data transfer, Bertram said.

The soldiers like the extra storage capacity the Zip drives provide, he said.

To gain access to DOD's Non-Classified IP Router Network and Secret IP Router Network, the soldiers use four modem network interface cards that they share. A fifth is kept stowed as a backup. The soldiers use Microsoft Internet Explorer and Outlook for NIPRnet e-mail and Outlook for SIPRnet
e-mail.

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