Supporting the Marine Corps:
Fort Hunter Liggett’s information-technology team applies fire’s lessons-learned

by Keith Gray

The information-technology team from the directorate of information-management at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., also provided and maintained telecommunications, networking and Internet support for the Marine Corps in a major two-week Signal exercise called Desert Knight ’99 that took place on FHL in December 1999.

Building on success achieved in September and October 1999 while supporting the Forest Service’s combat of the Hare Fire in the Los Padres National Forest, FHL’s IT team used the VINA/PairGain integrated-access/high-bit-rate digital-subscriber-line solution during the Marine exercise.

The IT team used the solution to provide 24 telephone lines to the Marines’ remote headquarters for the exercise. Like the fire’s South Kirk Complex headquarters, the Marine exercise’s headquarters was located on FHL property in an area that’s usually vacant ground – and about 10 miles from FHL’s telecommunications building.

The IT team is committed to keeping FHL’s telecommunications and networking systems as cutting-edge as possible, based on the level of funding available. Signal units are getting scarce. As a result, some military units don’t have Signal resources available when they come to FHL to "play." In those instances the IT team will provide Signal resources to the best of its ability.

While the Hare Fire could arguably be called a simulated digitized battlefield exercise, the Marines exercise involved military personnel and gave the IT team a chance to carry out what the Army is training it to do – deliver all IT functions in a hurry to anywhere on FHL property wherever the copper goes. In the case of the Hare Fire, the initial seven phone lines to support the fire camp were deployed within two hours of receiving the Forest Service’s request.

As did the Forest Service, the Marines used the solution during the exercise just for voice communications. A tactical satellite connection handled data.

The 24 lines delivered by the VINA/PairGain solution – plus six lines provided via existing copper attached to FHL’s tactical loop – gave the Marines a total of 30 dedicated voice lines for the exercise. The voice lines were used as trunk lines to support tactical switches the Marines set up.

With this and other Signal exercises, the tactical switches were deployed to support tactical voice communications to all units in the field and were critical to the training mission’s success.

Once again between the VINA/PairGain T1 Integrators – one at FHL’s telecommunications building and one at exercise headquarters – two PairGain repeaters were installed to send along traffic and minimize line noise. For the Marines’ exercise, the repeaters were located about 3 miles apart. Incoming telephone traffic again went into the VINA/PairGain T1 Integrator in the telecommunications building’s switch room, was T1-multiplexed into a PairGain 231 line card, and was sent on its way to exercise headquarters. There traffic was demultiplexed, and 24 phone lines came out of the VINA/PairGain T1 Integrator.

For the Marines’ exercise, FHL’s IT team mounted the T1 Integrator to be deployed in the field on a plywood board to facilitate transporting the device as well as its installation. All the connectors, split-66 block and power supplies were bolted down, so to move the integrator, we just picked it up. Deployment was plug-and-play.

The T1 Integrator, roughly the size of a pizza box, optimizes bandwidth use while reducing equipment and telecommunication costs. It also performs the functions of a channel bank, router and multiplexer in a single device, simplifying troubleshooting and maintenance.

Mr. Gray is FHL’s director of information management, a position he has held for three years. He has more than 18 years of combined federal service, including four years on active duty as a combat-engineer officer. He is a graduate of University of Tennessee, where he studied engineering and economics.

Acronym QuickScan
FHL – Fort Hunter Liggett
IT – information technology

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