DOD brass: Afghanistan campaign strengthened battlefield comm

DOD brass: Afghanistan campaign strengthened battlefield comm

SAN DIEGO'Commanding the first Navy carrier at sea during the conflict in Afghanistan, Rear Adm. Thomas E. Zelibor said he became frustrated by the disparate communications systems among the Defense Department and allies' ships.


West Coast ships communicated via the Coalition WAN. East Coast ships used the Linked Operations-Intelligence Centers Europe communications system, which was adopted by many U.S. allies as the intelligence system for coalition warfare.


Still, some NATO allies used other systems, Zelibor said.


"I found it to be very frustrating," said the former commander of Carrier Group 3. "I couldn't talk to them."


Today, Zelibor has successfully converged COWAN and LOCE into a single system that allied forces can use.


It proved to be one area where Zelibor made information sharing during wartime easier. Yesterday, he and other military commanders at the AFCEA West 2003 conference laid out what they had learned from Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan.


The Navy, working with allied forces, experimented with handheld mine detectors. And all warfighters used the Defense Department Secret IP Router Network to transmit information to commanders.


"The ability to work in that medium was phenomenal," said Capt. Robert S. Harward, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Group 1.


"We did all of our warfighting (communications) via the Web," Zelibor added. "The more information available, the less questions I got. I found that when we webified so that anyone with access to the SIPRnet could find out anything they wanted to know about our forces, the questions pretty much stopped."


But data sharing wasn't always reciprocal, Harward said. For example, Harward said his unit had to watch a walled compound in Afghanistan for about three days, relaying information back to their superiors. Shortly afterwards, Harward said he learned his bosses had ordered the compound bombed.


"No one told us they were going to be bombed," he said. His group ultimately was able to halt the bombing request after spotting women and children in the compound. "The flow was going up, but not always flowing back down."


Capt. Phil Wisecup, who was working aboard the USS Stennis, said the technological advances made in Afghanistan gave him options that he hadn't had in other conflicts.


"I had two to three ways that I could communicate," said Wisecup, a fellow with the Strategic Studies Group in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Wisecup served as the commander of Destroyer Squadron 21 during Operation Anaconda.

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