by SGT Mark Swart
FORT GORDON, Ga. – Dramatic changes in the nature of battlefield communications and the Signal Regiment were the focus of Chief of Signal MG Pat Cavanaugh’s "state of the Signal Regiment" speech given during the 28th Signal symposium here.
Cavanaugh, along with previous Chief of Signal and keynote speaker LTG Peter Cuviello, director of information systems for command, control, communications and computers at the Pentagon, spoke to a crowded house about upcoming changes.
Cavanaugh began his remarks with a short clip from the movie "Patton," in which GEN George Patton said that he had "precisely the right instrument, at precisely the right moment of history, in exactly the right place." Cavanaugh said he viewed the Regiment of today as being in a similar situation.
He added, however, that the Regiment would have to evolve to support the objective force of the future. "We have smart, energetic soldiers and dedicated leaders, he said, "but the Regiment is still tied up with legacy equipment."
Today’s Signal Regiment is too big, heavy and dependent on hilltops, he said.
"We have to become more relevant to the warfighter," he said. "Warfighters won’t be tethered or anchored down to a Signal site that’s going to be hard to pick up and move."
The current structure, he said, was built to handle Cold War-era threats with known enemies and more time to prepare. The Regiment of the future will have to react to unknown threats, have a small logistical footprint, be mobile and be able to win in knowledge-based warfare, he said.
New and intuitive equipment, he said, will be key to this transformation. Devices such as heads-up displays for individual soldiers will tell them if they’re within communications range. And individual communications equipment may also act as nodes, allowing communications networks to move with the action.
"These networks will move as all these platforms move," Cavanaugh said. "Radios inside the platforms will find other radios. They’ll do that automatically and configure themselves automatically."
The forward-deployed networks will also be tied into the larger networks in sanctuary areas and even homebases, using anything from unmanned aerial vehicles to satellites to ground-based fiber-optic cable. He said it’s important that the new equipment be "self-healing" and integrated throughout all types of units, and not run just by Signal personnel. This will allow the Regiment to focus on network management, information-dissemination management and information assurance.
The result will be increased situation awareness for commanders and soldiers.
Cavanaugh pointed to 334th Signal Company – which was activated here and sent to support the interim brigade combat team at Fort Lewis, Wash.. – as an indication of where the Regiment is heading. "We get a big bang for the buck with this unit," he said. This unit, which is dramatically smaller than a typical Signal company, relies on new technologies and less manpower to accomplish the Signal mission.
After Cavanaugh’s speech, Cuviello took the floor and elaborated on some of his observations since taking his job at the Pentagon.
"Technology is leading now; we’re trying to catch up organizationally," Cuviello said. He also stressed the importance of all Signal equipment being able to function with that of other services and nations. "We never go to war by ourselves," he said.
SGT Swart is military editor of The Signal, Fort Gordon’s newspaper.
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