Hood Signaleers test teamwork in Road Runner ’00

by SFC Patrick Martin, CPT Rosielynn Banzon and MAJ John Cox

Integrated-systems control. You’ve heard about it for years. We in 3d Signal Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, have it. We’ve tested it, modified it, reconfigured it, adjusted it and then tested it some more. On a recent major exercise (called Road Runner ’00) covering doctrinal or greater distances, we put ISYSCON through its paces in an environment that was a challenge for both Signaleer and ISYSCON. Though other mobile-subscriber equipment units won’t be seeing their particular configuration of ISYSCON until 2001, this article will give you a feel of what to expect.

We’ve been waiting a long time for ISYSCON and the doctrinal "jump" tactical-operations center capability it gives us. Moving communications for a TOC during an exercise or an actual deployment is one of the Signaleer’s challenges; 3d Signal Brigade’s answer was to put in place the first JTOC using ISYSCON to maintain command-and-control of the network.

The exercise

More than 1,400 Signal soldiers from Fort Hood deployed Nov. 29-Dec. 10, 1999, to locations on Fort Hood, Camp Bowie and throughout Central Texas. Our mission was to install a network covering more than 120 miles and to sustain a base network for Road Runner ’00 supporting III Mobile Armored Corps, 1st Cavalry Division, 4th Infantry Division and corps major subordinate commands. Road Runner ’00 gave its Signal participants an opportunity to train and establish a high-speed data network over doctrinal distances.

The 3d Signal Brigade was responsible for overall control and management of a network that included two corps-area Signal battalions (16th Signal Battalion and 57th Signal Battalion), along with two divisional Signal battalions from 1st Cavalry Division and 4th Infantry Division (13th and 124th Signal Battalions, respectively). The 1114th Signal Battalion provided the tactical-to-sustaining-base lash-up needed to support the Fort Hood Battle Simulation Center tie-ins.

To maintain control, 3d Signal Brigade divided the network into three areas of responsibility: Camp Bowie, controlled by 124th Signal Battalion; the Fort Hood area, controlled by 13th Signal Battalion; and the area lying between Fort Hood and Camp Bowie along the main supply routes 57th Signal Battalion and 16th Signal Battalion controlled.

In total, the network consisted of 16 MSE node centers, 36 small extension nodes, four large extension nodes, eight troposcatter elements, three TSC-85B, six TSC-93 and 11 radio-access units. The network provided subscribers access to videoteleconferencing, data, voice, asynchronous-transfer mode, high-speed data and the Army’s tactical C2 system across the entire AOR.

Road Runner network coverage at its beginning Road Runner '00 network diagram at exercise's start.

ISYSCON allowed 3d Signal Brigade to conduct RAU downloads; generate status reports; preplan network configurations; produce and print team packets; download team packets to floppy disks and distribute them electronically across the tactical local-area network; and manage and generate frequencies for teams on the move, as well as monitor and manage node-center switches and routers.

ISYSCON control components Integrated-systems control components.

Exercise challenges

Signaleers deployed with advance elements of III Corps to establish the MSE backbone. However, we had no illusions about the difficulty of installing such a complex network over doctrinal distances. Our primary concern was the fact that our network was engineered to support the multiple VTC and data requirements at many TOC locations. Added to this was the challenge of tying in four tactical battalion controls and the brigade system control in a "full-up" operation.

Everyone was aware of the thin-threaded network that tied the rear command posts at Fort Hood to their forward CPs at Camp Bowie. Early in the planning stages, very few high-ground communication sites could be occupied between Fort Hood and Camp Bowie due to lack of land availability. So our first challenge was to establish robust connectivity among the forward and rear CPs, as well as provide frequency-modulation retransmission and RAU coverage along the three MSRs.

We solved this challenge by using long-haul assets (tropo and tactical satellite) and carefully placed retrans sites. Once internodals were established, we employed several relay teams to the same sites for more redundancy.

Phantom Warriors successfully integrated ISYSCON into the exercise’s planning and execution phases. The 3d Signal Brigade’s network managers used ISYSCON to design the Road Runner network. The system allowed us to be able to display highpoints and possible dead space for RAU planning. Once the RAU network was established, the network backbone and extension links were built. ISYSCON also provided the network planner the ability to see the strengths of his planned links, and it distinguished links with different symbology for TACSAT, tropo, ultra-high frequency and other communications tools.

RAU coverage shown on ISYSCON workstation RAU coverage shown on ISYSCON workstation. The strength of RAU coverage is shown in shades of blue: the  darker the shade, the better the coverage.
Network coverage on ISYSCON workstation Network coverage on ISYSCON workstation. ISYSCON provides the network planner the ability to see strengths of planned links: green means strong profile; yellow is marginal; and red is no profile.

ISYSCON proved to be efficient and valuable for profiling line-of-sight as well as tropo links. It accounted for need-to-know items such as path loss, free-space loss and signal-to-noise.

As 3d Signal Brigade’s SYSCON and BATCONs established their fighting positions, we systematically built the network from Fort Hood out to Camp Bowie. Once SYSCON was established at Camp Bowie, 3d Signal Brigade’s SYSCON assumed control of the network. During the execution phase, 3d Signal Brigade’s SYSCON used ISYSCON to monitor node-center switches and routers using Hewlett Packard’s Openview. Reports such as traffic-metering summary reports were also pulled from ISYSCON.

As corps and division CPs moved to their attack positions via a river crossing, the network adjusted while continuously providing RAU coverage for the river-crossing site as well as for the MSRs. Before the forward CPs moved, SYSCON deployed the JTOC, which consisted of a six-soldier team (two officers and four noncommissioned officers) and used the alternate ISYSCON. Once JTOC was established at a Fort Hood training area, the brigade S-3 moved to its location.

The alternate ISYSCON (JTOC) and the primary ISYSCON then transferred exercise plans over the MSE network. Once JTOC received a successful transfer of plans, JTOC and SYSCON began to conduct transfer-of-authority over the network. The brigade S-3 at the JTOC location synched with the brigade’s operations officer located at SYSCON to ensure TOA was complete. JTOC was able to control the network while the brigade’s ops officer continued displacement and re-establishment at JTOC’s location. This TOA allowed 3d Signal Brigade to remain in control of the network while SYSCON displaced.

Systems administrator backs up files SPC Jose Cruz, systems administrator, restores backup files for ISYSCON.

Summary

The 3d Signal Brigade, along with both division Signal battalions, successfully met the III Corps commander’s intent to provide reliable communications supporting corps movements from TAAs to attack positions. Also, 3d Signal Brigade successfully integrated ISYSCON by using the system for planning and controlling the network, validating hardware and software configurations and posturing the system for future deployments and testing.

Road Runner ’00 provided the Fort Hood Signal community the opportunity to integrate all Signal battalions into the corps area network using ATM and high-speed data, along with legacy MSE capabilities, to provide III Corps, 1st Cavalry Division and 4th Infantry Division the ability to C2 the force.

SFC Martin is 3d Signal Brigade’s frequency manager and ISYSCON staff user. His experience ranges from a radio operator with 122d Signal Battalion to running transmission systems and extension-switch sections for 17th Signal Battalion and 124th Signal Battalion.

CPT Banzon is assistant brigade S-3 operations officer and 3d Signal Brigade’s project officer for ISYSCON. Previous unit assignments include 22d Signal Brigade and 440th Signal Battalion, and past deployments include Operation Joint Endeavor in 1996, Operation Joint Guard and Operation Joint Forge ’98.

MAJ Cox is 3d Signal Brigade’s operations officer. His past assignments include S-3 for 57th Signal Battalion and commander of Company B, 26th Signal Battalion, in Heilbronn, Germany. Education includes graduate of the Venezuelan Armed Forces of Cooperation Command and General Staff College, and U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

Acronym QuickScan
AOR – area of responsibility
ATM – asynchronous-transfer mode
BATCON – battalion control
C2 – command and control
CP – command post
ISYSCON – integrated-systems control
JTOC – forward-jump tactical-operations center
MSE – mobile-subscriber equipment
MSR – main supply route
RAU – radio-access unit
SYSCON – systems control
TACSAT – tactical satellite
TOA – transfer-of-authority
TOC – tactical-operations center
VTC – videoteleconference(ing
)

dividing rule

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04/04/12
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