By 1st Lt. Matthew Hanlon
56th Signal Battalion
In Janurary a team of nine 56th Signal Battalion Soldiers deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in support of US Army South's Integrated Advance 2011 mission, IA 11.
IA 11 is a U.S. Southern Command sponsored, operational exercise aimed at exercising and validating key aspects of SOUTHCOM plans that focuses on humanitarian assistance, foreign disaster response and mass migration in the Caribbean while working together with various U.S. interagency partners.
The Soldiers operated in two teams; the Deployable Joint Command and Control Information Technology Help Desk team, composed of 1st Lt. Matthew Hanlon, Sgt. Theresa Linn, Spc. Mark Garza, Pfc. Daniel McBrayer, and Pfc. James Pettit, and the Small Command and Control Internet Protocol team, composed of Staff Sgt. Jerry Barrow, Spc. David Flores, Pfc. Shawn Pope, and Pvt. Dominique Fox, providing IT support to the Army South, Special Troop Battalion Mayor Cell.
The DJC2 system provides an integrated, rapidly deployable, modular Joint Command and Control system to support Joint Task Force command and control operations.
The SC2IP is a robust, modular telecommunications package ideal for initial entry or advanced party operations or small headquarters for up to 40 users who require broadband Command and Control certified services within a small footprint.
In order to successfully accomplish the mission, the DJC2 and SC2IP needed to be installed and operational with a short lead time.
Immediately after the equipment arrived, all Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Soldiers worked around the clock in order to setup and test the systems.
This included installing systems, making and running cables, configuring satellites and other communication equipment, as well as handling 200 pound boxes in humid 90 degree heat.
The DJC2 and SC2IP were verified and operational by the time the main body arrived to begin the exercise.
Normally when the 56th Soldiers deploy, they use either a SC2IP package or a Single Channel Tactical Satellite radio package.
During IA 11, every Soldier had the opportunity to work with equipment and personnel that they may not have worked with in the past.
The 56th Signal Soldiers were exposed to the DJC2, a complex communications platform that US Army South deploys to support their Commanding General.
These learning opportunities helped broaden each individual's knowledge of communication equipment and improved the Soldiers' overall communication skills.
Pettit, who is always eager to learn something new said, "by being in the IA 11 exercise, I received a tremendous amount of 'on the job training' for equipment that was outside my Military Occupational Specialty."
Similarly, Garza agreed that "IA 11 was truly a great learning experience."
Once the main body arrived and all systems were functional, the focus shifted from configuring the systems to helping the command with communication issues.
These issues ranged from resetting passwords to setting up printers and Video Teleconferences for General Officers.
Both the SC2IP team and the Help Desk team worked through several hundred trouble tickets for both the Joint Task Force - Migration Operations personnel and the Mayor Cell, and received praise from the key leaders using those communications systems.
Linn who was one of only three "Hero of the Day" recipients during the exercise was also awarded a coin of excellence by the Commanding General, U.S. Army South Command, Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas.
Overall, the 56th Signal Battalion Soldiers successfully supported the overall mission of Integrated Advance 2011 and JTF-MIGOPS.
The Soldiers benefitted individually by their exposure to new equipments and improved their techniques and procedures.
The success of the mission can be summarized by Flores' comment, "with the continuous support of everyone, no matter your MOS, we collectively made IA 11 successful."