Firebolt exercise links 5,000

During the Grecian Firebolt exercise, reservists used the Defense Satellite Communication Systems to send encrypted messages through Army networks.

Laurie DeWitt

Army Reserve and active-duty signal officers recently worked on their global communications skills in a big way.

During the annual Grecian Firebolt exercise, 5,000 soldiers at locations as far-flung as Fort Gordon, Ga., and Camp Carroll, South Korea, participated in command, control, communications and intelligence training. The focus was to get reservists in the United States to work with their active-duty counterparts around the world.

'With Grecian Firebolt, we put together joint networks using primarily Reserve component systems,' said Maj. Gen. George F. Bowman, commander of the 311th Theater Signal Command at Fort Meade, Md., which ran the exercise. 'Most active component systems are deployed all over the world.'

The signalers worked to get their networks, connected to both the Secret and Non-Classified IP router networks, to interoperate with communications systems from other federal agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Homeland Security Department.

They tested voice over IP and the high-frequency systems that work with Military Affiliate Radio System stations. MARS is crucial to the Army's emergency preparedness because it is an alternative when primary phone lines are down, said Robert Sutton, chief of the Army's MARS system.

In one day during the exercise, MARS processed 254 messages from 13 states and Germany, Sutton said.

During Grecian Firebolt, reservists looked for ways to better communicate with local law enforcement agencies, said Maj. Rick Dubreuil, chief of the plans and operations division at the 311th Theater Signal Command.

Dubreuil said reservists tested the Defense Collaboration Tool Suite, which offers videoconferencing, chat and whiteboard functions.

Layers of security

Security was a major concern of Grecian Firebolt participants testing voice, video and data networks.

'Most of us have passwords on our computers. We're installing systems that will protect us at each layer of accessing data as it is passed from one location to another,' Bowman said.

Reservists used the Defense Satellite Communication Systems to send encrypted messages through Army networks, officials said.

'Currently, these terminals are deployed with forces all over the world,' Mykut said.

During the exercise, senior airman Colin Wilson said upgrades made to the converters and modem increased to 1 Mbps the amount of data that could be transmitted from the terminals.

At the Theater Communications Coordination Cell'the headquarters of the exercise'systems were monitored around the clock by a staff of 40 people, said an Army official.

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