Can you hear me now? Army deploys communication tools

Several Army units have deployed to the devastated Gulf Coast region to provide vital communications support to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, as well as military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Forty-four people with the Army's 93rd Signal Brigade, based in Fort Gordon, Ga., have deployed to Camp Shelby, Miss., to set up communications equipment for the Joint Task Force Headquarters and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Some of that support includes both secure and nonsecure video teleconferencing, as well as Internet and telephone access.

The brigade is part of the Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command, based at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

The hurricane not only wiped out much of the region's IT infrastructure, but also could have an impact on troops stationed in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. The service's Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) has been busy in Baton Rouge, La., reconnecting the Corps Theater Automatic Data Processing Center to the Defense Department's nonclassified network, which was damaged by Katrina.

Without network connectivity, troops serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom were experiencing problems with logistics processes, according to a PEO EIS news release.

The Army set up two satellite terminals as part of its Combat Service Support Very Small Aperture Terminal (CSS VSAT) program at nearby Fort Polk, La., and sent contractors to Baton Rouge to network the terminals, helping the Standard Army Retail Supply System process supply orders from theater locations. Today, about 80 percent of the contingency supply chain is back up and running, according to the release.

CSS VSAT units include Global Positioning System receivers, motorized satellite antennas and notebook computers running special logistics applications. The systems allow troops to send requisitions for parts electronically.

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