by 1LT Shawn Herron
The premier Signal exercise, Grecian Firebolt, added yet another notch in its belt of successes after this year�s iteration. GF �02 provided the same level of support to the same number of subscribers spread across the United States with literally one-quarter of the tactical-communications equipment.
GF, an annual Signal exercise, is normally directed on alternate years by the two Reserve Component theater Signal commands: 311th Theater Signal Command at Fort Meade, Md., and 335th Theater Signal Command at Fort McPherson, Ga. Two to four Active Component Signal brigades and two Army National Guard brigades � as well as an assortment of operationally attached RC Signal battalions and companies � normally execute the exercise.
However, contingency operations following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, precluded 335th Theater Signal Command and all the AC brigades from participating in this year�s exercise. This left Signaleers at 311th Theater Signal Command with a daunting dilemma: how to provide communications support to eight independent exercises spanning 32 continental U.S. sites and Puerto Rico without AC tactical-communications support and sponsorship from Network Enterprise and Technology Command.
Facing these challenges, 311th Theater Signal Command � with the support and funding of U.S. Army Reserve Command � not only provided communications support to all the concurrent exercises but also expanded the mission to include interoperability tests with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The solution was to combine tactical and strategic (commercial) communications into an integrated architecture that wove tactical communications from the ARNG in the form of switches and troposcatter links, satellite-communications capabilities from the Air National Guard and 311th Theater Signal Command�s new AN/TSC-93C SATCOM van, with strategic directorate-of-information-management support provided by the AC�s 1110th Signal Battalion and various DOIMs at exercise sites.
A network-operations stack was built to ensure data confidentiality, integrity and availability. It combined commercial firewalls, intrusion-detection systems, routers programmed with access-control lists and military-encryption tools to meet its goals. The netops equipment was installed, operated and maintained by a team of NETCOM and 311th Theater Signal Command data engineers. The resulting network architecture optimized using the CONUS-based Defense Information Systems Network infrastructure and standard tactical-entry point facilities.
Many valuable lessons were drawn from GF �02 as well as many successes marked. Highlights included integration with FEMA�s mobile-emergency-response communications teams in all areas of command, control, communications and computers, as well as successful integration of tactical and strategic assets to provide seamless communications.
Information-assurance and netops training were conducted through a partnership with the Army Reserve Information Operations Command headquartered in Adelphi, Md. This provided an opportunity for 311th Theater Signal Command communicators to receive valuable training in both these areas, with the promise of more interaction in future exercises.
Plans include continuing to build on the IA infrastructure and training in netops equipment and software, as well as follow-on integration with FEMA, the DOIMs and the information-operations commands.
Task organization for Grecian Firebolt '02.
|311th Theater Signal Command's Defense Information Systems Network "cloud" and exercises supported.|
|Ground Mobile Forces satellite network for Grecian Firebolt '02.|
|FEMA videoteleconferencing and interoperability test.|
|Switching systems for Grecian Firebolt '02.|
|Multiplexing and videoteleconferencing plan for Fort Meade, Md., during Grecian Firebolt '02.|
1LT Herron is dual-hatted as the network systems engineer and public-affairs officer for 311th Theater Signal Command.
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Army Communicator is part of Regimental Division, a division of Office Chief of Signal.