Hard work precedes user-friendly data communications for 49th Armored Division

by SPC Robert Jones

CAMP SWIFT, Bastrop, Texas � Virtuoso technique � in any artistic endeavor � has been described as the ability to make the impossible look effortless. Nine members of Signal Detachment 1, 49th Armored Division, put in many months of preparation to establish near-effortless data communication for 49th Armored Division during III Corps� Phantom Lightning exercise.

The Embedded Warfighter Exercise (part of III Corps� Battle Command Training Program) tested 49th�s combat readiness through computer simulation rather than actual troops on the ground. Therefore it was essential that data communications be ready and secured by the time the actual exercise commenced.

�When we first came here in November [2001], there was no wiring in the building,� said CPT Rob McLain, 49th Armored Division�s automation officer. �Since then, a lot of us have been coming in on drill weekends and during the week, working very diligently.� According to McLain, Detachment 1, formed in November 2001 from elements of 249th Signal Battalion, hit the ground running at Camp Swift.

�We�re using eight servers to handle the workflow, and we�re running much faster than dialup,� said McLain. �During a mission-readiness rehearsal at Fort Polk, La., we processed 20,000 e-mails during a three-week period.� By the EWFX�s end, in the space of one week, Detachment 1 processed more than three times as many e-mails.

CPT McLain and SPC Nichols connect workstations to computer network CPT Rob McLain and SPC Joseph Nichols of Detachment 1 (Signal), 249th Signal Battalion, 49th Armored Division, Texas Army National Guard, connect a myriad of workstations to the network at Camp Swift. Detachment 1 participated in III Corps' Embedded Warfighter Exercise 2002, part of the corps' Battle Command Training Program.

Securing the network through encryption and virus-proofing are some of the duties that SPC Eric Adam, server administrator, performs. �It gets very intense when you have to make sure the network is secure from outside attacks,� Adam said. Adam likens securing a network to guarding an installation. �It�s similar to posting guards at each �gate� or �entrance� to the network so hackers can�t access classified information.�

Although the EWFX�s mission was simulated, making sure 49th Armored Division�s various components � almost 110 subscribers at Camp Swift and Fort Hood � were connected and secured was Detachment 1�s vital, �real-world� mission. Providing information more quickly and making it more user-friendly than even III Corps and the other major Regular Army divisions did was something members of this Army National Guard Signal unit have been doing since their deployment to Bosnia for their Stabilization Forces 7 rotation in 1999. The 249th Signal Battalion�s tool in accomplishing its real-world mission is a web-based program called ScribeVision.

ScribeVision is the brainchild of data technician CW2 Rodney Hammack. Exclusive to 49th Armored Division, ScribeVision is a secured web-based homepage that keeps the division connected. Noted for its speed, ScribeVision makes it possible for units to communicate in real-time and thus prevents unnecessary delays in the mission�s execution.

�The central concept of ScribeVision is that we create a portal and set up the infrastructure for it, which empowers all the different sections. The users provide the content; we provide the method for it to be displayed,� Hammack said.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Loyd of 209th Weather Flight, Texas Air National Guard, was impressed by ScribeVision�s flexibility and responsiveness. �It�s a very good tool for keeping people informed,� he said. �Detachment 1 was immediately responsive to any suggestions we made.�

One of Detachment 1�s future projects for increasing data integrity and efficiency is a web-based server that could fit in a wooden footlocker. �This would allow our elements to carry out local communications even if their outside network is down,� said McLain.

For the Signal Corps data virtuosos of Detachment 1, staying cutting-edge means never settling for the status quo.

SPC Jones is a photojournalist with 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas Army National Guard.

Acronym quickscan
EWFX � Embedded Warfighter Exercise

dividing rule

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