Army calls in the troops to establish communications in Gulf Coast

CAMP SHELBY, Miss.'The communications architecture in the Gulf region supporting Hurricane Katrina search-and-rescue efforts is larger than what is being used in Iraq, according to an Army officer.

Joe Kobsar, chief warrant officer at Fort Monmouth, N.J., said the IT needs are greater in areas like Mississippi and Louisiana than they are in Iraq. When military communications specialists arrived just after Katrina, they found downed power lines and spotty wireless connectivity.

They went to work installing a voice, video and data communications capability to cover troops who are deployed across the entire Gulf Coast region.

'The size of Iraq is even smaller than the state of Mississippi,' said Kobsar, explaining that the network Fort Monmouth has brought to Camp Shelby has to support troops and other federal and state agencies.

Kobsar, who designed the first on-the-move system for Gen. William Wallace in Iraq called Command and Control Vehicle or C2V, said his role at Camp Shelby is to ensure that military units can talk to one another.

'I'm here to offset some of the military's mission with new technologies,' Kobsar added. 'We do that for a living, hooking up infrastructures. We provide all the comms pipes down into these areas like New Orleans. We have big satellites that shoot out to places like Fort Gordon, Ga., and MacDill Air Force Base and all the others come to derive our services.'

Kobsar said the biggest challenge is deploying the architecture to disparate systems from non-DOD agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other Homeland Security Department entities.

Each of the major military units deployed to Camp Shelby bring their own signal and communications assets to help troops. Some of the equipment is redundant. Some goes to different areas.

Fort Monmouth came to the camp with the Joint Network Node (JNN) and the Army Airborne Command and Control System (A2C2S).

JNN, part of the service's Joint Network Transport Capability-Spiral initiative (JNTC-S), is a command and control mobile battlefield communications system that the Army is using in Iraq. The program gives troops the ability to communicate while on the move, using voice over IP, videoconferencing and access to classified and unclassified military networks.

JNTC-S is bringing capabilities developed by the Army's Warfighter Information Network-Tactical and Future Combat Systems programs to warfighters on the battlefield. JNTC-S is made up of three components: JNN, the Connecting the Logistician program and Trojan Special Purpose Integrated Remoted Intelligence Terminal.

A2C2S is a command and control system that is outfitted on Black Hawk helicopters. It includes global information system mapping software, high-frequency radios and receivers and secure and nonsecure phones.

Also, most Army units are using Army Knowledge Online to check their e-mail accounts and to send messages.

'It's more bandwidth conservative,' Kobsar said. 'It's good for people who don't have a mother unit.'

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 military is helping restore communications in Mississippi, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La.

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