|Grecian Firebolt Puts Web to Use|
Grecian Firebolt Puts Web to Use
By Staff Sgt. Jack Siemieniec, Army News Service.
Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia -- (ANS) July 6, 2001 -- Leveraging new technology to accomplish the mission, the 311th Theater Signal Command uses the web to replace its time-honored message center.
During Grecian Firebolt 2001 -- a multi-component, multi-service, training exercise -- the 311th communicated with its subordinate units and higher headquarters through web-based reporting on a secure network.
"This is a good system. Prior to all this, we had to rely on email, faxes, a secure phone that may or may not work," said Capt. Terri McCord. She is the exchange/web administrator for the exercise.
McCord said another advantage is the ability to make changes if there are errors.
"Maybe you didn't enter the information accurately the first time, but this way allows you to input your information and before you submit, you can make any changes necessary. When you send a fax, it's gone. This way, it's gone too, but this allows you to modify," she continued.
"The best thing about this is once you report it, everything is visible to any user of the SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network)," explained Sgt. 1st Class Patricia Marrero, "Now everything is web-based." Marrero is a 74B, programmer/analyst, and served as an exchange/web assistant for the exercise, which ran from June 15-30.
The 311th, an Army Reserve unit based at Fort Meade, Md., was the executive agent for Grecian Firebolt. As such, it was tasked by its higher headquarters, the U.S. Army Signal Command, from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., with the planning, command and control of this world-wide signal exercise.
Units from Korea to Puerto Rico and across the continental United States submitted status reports dealing with personnel and their locations, supply and communications to the Grecian Firebolt network. Instantaneously, the reports were collated to provide an overall picture of the exercise to decision makers and other interested parties.
The Army Signal Command's Directorate of Information Management administered the website from its Fort Huachuca location.
In addition, there were a number of other documents available for viewing on the secure network created as a product of the training exercise.
Fragmentary orders, training objectives, situation reports of the 311th and its subordinate brigades, and even the daily command briefing presented to Army Signal Command were there for access.
"This has been a real asset for me, since I'm new to the unit, because I can learn a lot more what's going on without having to ask everyone all the time," said Marrero.
"At other units where I was before, I used to work at the message center. I'd receive a fax; the fax goes to the message center. So I'd see it and see I'd have to send one to the S-1 (personnel), the S-2 (intelligence), the S-3 (supply and logistics). So I'd go make photocopies. Then I'd go to the S-1 box, put one copy, one copy, one copy. Then the S-1, 2, and 3 would have to come over and see 'Have I got anything?' In between there would be a few minutes.
"With (web-based) reporting, you're taking away that message center staff," Marrero said.
She explained that since this is a new innovation for the exercise, there was a short learning curve at the outset to educate users how to access the system, but after the first day or two, that problem was erased.
First-time users were instructed to install a Java plug-in to utilize the site.
Marrero said that as the exercise progressed, suggestions were submitted along with the twice-daily reports, and improvements were made to the system.
"You can use it anytime, from any machine that's hooked up to the network. That's what I like about the system. It's there and it's available and it's good. It's very good," Marrero said.
"It allows everyone to know what's going on at all times," McCord added, "instead of waiting for a fax that may not come."
(Editor's note: Staff Sgt. Siemieniec is a Reservist assigned to U.S. Army Signal Command, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.)