News: Japanese, US service members sync comms
Story by Staff Sgt. Antoinette Gibson
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti - During emergencies, the importance of an effective and reliable communication system between Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and partner nations is essential. Recognizing this need, American and Japanese service members conducted a successful radio exercise at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, July 5, 2013 to ensure an alternative communication system is available in the event of manmade or natural disasters.
Historically, land and cellular telephone networks do not survive disasters when they reach levels requiring a combined response effort. As a solution, members from the 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Armor Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division and Japan Self Defense Forces' Deployment Air Force for Counter-Piracy Enforcement unit (DAPE), a Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa coalition partner, brought their field radios and tested the operational capabilities of the equipment.
"Camp Lemonnier and DAPE's camp can contact each other in normal situations without problems. But, in the event of a disaster, communication may be less than favorable," said DAPE Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jumpei Okazaki, CJTF-HOA JSDF liaison officer. "This is why it is important that we prepare for emergencies."
Using both nation's respective standard communications equipment, the Japanese and American service members tested to see if the radios can communicate with one another. The challenge was to see if both radios could use a common frequency and signal.
"Initially the radios were not communicating," said U.S. Army Sgt. Rodrick Brown, 1/63 AR RG communications section chief. He said U.S. Army radios use squelch, a feature that suppresses the sound of channel noise when the radio is not receiving a transmission. "Our squelch prevented us from communicating with the Japanese radios. Once we figured that out, we disabled our squelch, and the radios were communicating," Brown said.
Additionally, the Japanese and American coalition partners explored ways to retrofit parts and antennas to one another's radios in the event one nation's equipment fails.
"Once we started troubleshooting, things came together," said Brown, a resident of Winter Haven, Fla. "It's rewarding to see years of training pay off and after finding solutions with the Japanese, it gave me great feeling of accomplishment. It was great to work with them."
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Christopher Hoff, 1/63 communications officer, said everyone involved with the training benefited.
“This was our team's first experience dealing with another culture in a multinational environment," Hoff said. "Working hands on with foreign equipment, seeing its capabilities, and learning about the differences and similarities between the two systems were invaluable. We are thankful for the opportunity to take part in this successful exercise."
Hoff said the radio testing with the Japanese, officially called Djibouti Allied Communications Exercise, will continue with other partner nations. Plans are under way to test the compatibility of radio equipment with French and Djiboutian military units.
"The best part of the exercise is we found a system that works," Brown said. "If anything should happen, we now know the lines of communication will continue."