|93rd Signal Paves Way for Information Superhighway |
93rd Signal Paves Way for Information Superhighway
By Staff Sgt. Vincent DeGroot.
Comalapa Air Base, El Salvador -- (Army News Service) January 26, 1999) -- Whether it's commercial phone lines, Internet service, Defense Switching Network lines, or secure computer networks, the 93rd Signal Brigade, headquartered in Fort Gordon, Ga., is providing record-breaking data service support to U.S. military units working in Central America following Hurricane Mitch.
For military leaders, it means constant contact with units throughout the theater of operations and CONUS.
For soldiers, it means getting a reassuring "Ma Bell" dial tone when they pick up the phone to call home.
At Comalapa Air Base, the 93rd has a phone tent where soldiers can make a call anytime, anywhere in the world. Along with phone service, soldiers can also send and receive electronic-mail.
According to Sgt. Robert Dupuis, Company C, 63rd Signal Battalion, "Our soldiers are getting better Internet access than in the states. I've checked my bank accounts and paid some bills. It's pretty cool."
When U.S. military units first arrived in El Salvador, they were using standard issue IMAR-SAT phones. The IMAR-SAT is a portable phone that uses commercial satellites and phone lines at a cost of $2.25 to $13 a minute. However, upon arriving in El Salvador, 93rd troops hit the ground running. Within six hours, they provided the first trunk line. By the time 24-hours had elapsed, they cut communication cost by $225,000 a day by eliminating reliance on the IMAR-SAT.
"We've put out very large data pipes, ones that are 50 percent larger than those at Fort Campbell, (Ky.), and we're doing it off tactical equipment," said Maj. Leo Thrush, 93rd Signal Battalion commander. This allows commanders to continue the mission, while providing individuals with more than enough open lines for the all important morale and welfare calls.
With the hub located at Comalapa and up-links throughout the theater, the unit processes 20-30 thousand calls a day. "That," said Thrush, "is a significant moral booster." For the users in the field, how it all works is not a major concern, as long as it works.
But for 1st Lt. Michael Davenport, the joint computer systems chief, making it work better than anyone's expectations is a significant accomplishment. Combining military communication equipment with equipment available 'off the shelf', allows the network to be pushed miles beyond normal restrictions.
"The people who wrote the book didn't think it could be done until they tried it and it worked," said Davenport.
With many soldiers now making their last phone calls before re-deploying home, Dupuis, who monitors the number of out-going calls, said they're hoping people will continue to call.
"Before we leave here, we want to put a sign on the side of our truck that says, 'One million served,'" he said with a smile.
(Editor's note: DeGroot is with the 135th Public Affairs Detachment, Iowa Army National Guard.)