Army drives voice, video, data to the Gulf Coast

Col. David Dodd, 93rd Signal Brigade commander.

Dawn S. Onley

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. -- The day after Hurricane Katrina ravished the Gulf Coast region, members of the 93rd Signal Brigade began driving caravans of communications equipment to Camp Shelby, Miss., to set up a voice, video and data infrastructure for the southwestern portion of the state.

When about 80 Fort Gordon, Ga., soldiers arrived at Camp Shelby'headquarters for Joint Task Force-Katrina operations and temporary home to Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, who is spearheading the military's relief efforts for Katrina'they found a very limited communications capability.

Roughly 120 brigade soldiers are doing similar work in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La. The soldiers come from either the brigade's 67th or 56th Signal Battalion.

"We are very similar to Cox Cable and Bell South. We go into an austere environment, and we give you your Internet connection and telephone connection," explained Col. David Dodd, 93rd Signal Brigade commander. "We also do that for the Army at wartime."

The units are providing tactical satellites, data switching/multiplex equipment, and secure and non-secure voice, video and data support to the Army, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Defense Department's joint task force.

The first big test for the brigade came when they had to hook up a videoconference between President Bush in the White House and Gen. Honore just 48 hours after they arrived at Camp Shelby and set up the tactical equipment.

The videoconference was only supposed to last 17 minutes; but it lasted an hour and 15 minutes. Dodd said it went off without a hitch.

"We didn't want any errors. It was perfect," he said.

In February, members of the 93rd Signal Brigade, a subordinate unit under the Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Army Signal Command came back from a year's deployment in Iraq.

A month later, the communications equipment and tactical trucks arrived on boats, and from March through August, units fixed and maintained the equipment. That same equipment is now being used at Camp Shelby, officials said.

"Everything they're using here is being used in Iraq," Dodd said, referencing the data packaging units and the satellite terminals.

GCN staff writer Dawn Onley is embedded with the Army's 93rd Signal Brigade in Camp Shelby, Miss. She will be sending reports on how the Army is helping restore communications in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La.

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