Central Command brings comms media to the fight

'Whenever we cross a border of another country, we're obviously on our own. The nature of the conflict drives what communications systems are used.'

'Army Col. Jeffrey Foley

Col. Jeffrey Foley oversees the Army's IT infrastructure in 25 countries from the Horn of Africa to Afghanistan.

The vast region of mostly southwest Asia and Africa is home to about 500 million people, who speak seven major languages and hundreds of dialects and comprise 12 major religious groups 'which don't always see eye to eye,' Foley said. 'It's not the most peaceful neighborhood.'

In such a setting, the military needs to communicate quickly and securely. It is Foley's job, as director of command, control, communications and computer systems for the Central Command, to make that happen.

'Whenever we cross a border of another country, we're obviously on our own. The nature of the conflict drives what communications systems are used,' Foley said.

Foley said he oversees the installation and maintenance of all types of voice, video and data communications systems supporting military operations for the combatant command, which is based in Tampa, Fla.

As troops go off to combat zones, Foley's staff of 450 active-duty, civilian and contractor personnel have been busy overhauling commercial systems and leasing high-bandwidth satellite and fiber-optic systems to support military agencies across the region.

'We have people who are serving as liaison officers to Afghanistan and Iraq as needed,' Foley said recently during a telephone interview from Iraq. 'When we launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, the military took all of its own communications with them. We did not depend on any comms media in Iraq. That's how we conduct military operations. We have our own organic communications.'

Foley's staff has installed 150 servers, more than 3,000 computers and 3,000 telephones to support troops at the joint Central Command in Tampa and command posts throughout the 25-country region.

For the past six months in Iraq, Foley said, his staff has helped organize about 300 videoconferences a month across all military directorates.

'I am primarily responsible for installing, operating and maintaining classified and unclassified data and voice networks,' Foley said.

In Iraq recently, he said, there has been an increase in the use of collaboration tools for e-mail and chatting.

'It is a marvelous capability to share information in real time, especially in the administrative and logistics world,' Foley said.

Imagery needed

As the allied forces work to stabilize the country against the insurgency, the command has increased its use of Web services. Reliance on intelligence and imagery has grown significantly, too.

'The operational demand for intelligence has grown dramatically. Situational awareness and the need for imagery have grown, as have logistics and personnel requirements,' Foley said.
From the early days of the war, when Army and Marine Corps units positioned themselves to take Iraq, single-channel radios were the primary command and control system.

Foley said that made it easier to communicate on the move. 'They used single-channel radios, high-frequency radios, things of that nature so they didn't have to stop, camp, park the vehicle and set up the satellite dishes,' he said.

Air Force Tech Sgt. Sean Brice, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-7 in Baghdad, said he helps troops communicate over tactical systems during the post-war stabilization efforts.
Brice's mission is to manage about 31,000 frequencies in the Persian Gulf region that support voice and data networks for all coalition forces.

'We have to [resolve conflicts] among all the frequencies in use,' Brice explained. 'We ensure that everyone has a good, reliable frequency.'

Brice said frequencies are broken into numerous bands. His office tells military units what bands to use to avoid interference.


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