News: All in a Day's Work: Automation Helpdesk Resolves MND-B's Technology Problems
By Pfc. Samantha Schutz
Multi-National Division – Baghdad Public Affairs
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – When the 4th Infantry Division became the Army's first "digitized division" in 1995, its Soldiers were introduced to a new way of being connected – by technology.
Using a computer network with common operating systems, all units within the Ironhorse Division and Multi-National Division – Baghdad, are able to communicate and share information regarding the mission at hand.
To keep the network running smoothly, a smaller network of Soldiers specializing in automation – the use of computers to reduce the need for human work – run an around-the-clock helpdesk to continuously monitor, upgrade and repair the connections.
The Soldiers who are part of the helpdesk network do a variety of jobs to fulfill their overall mission.
When a new computer enters the division's hands, it must first be imaged by the helpdesk technicians. Imaging includes uploading brand-new operating systems, such as Windows, and software like Adobe Photoshop and CD burning tools, said Austin, Texas, native Sgt. 1st Class Troy Merritt, the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the division automation management office, Company C, Special Troops Battalion, 4th Inf. Div.
Once a computer is imaged, it has the capabilities required for it to be connected to the MND-B network. The helpdesk staff also handles the creation of user accounts for the network.
Each Soldier's information, like where they work and how to contact them, is stored in their user account so co-workers can easily communicate with one another.
Also, if a division staff member has secret clearance and access to a secure network line, they are able to access the MND-B portal, a centralized website where all the units can compile knowledge, Merritt said.
From the portal, anyone who needs assistance with a network-related issue can contact the helpdesk directly by filling out a "trouble ticket," or work order, said Merritt. The helpdesk staff continually checks the portal for new trouble tickets and addresses each individual problem.
"We're averaging anywhere from an hour and 50 minutes to two hours from the time a ticket is submitted to the time it gets closed," said Merritt.
Since the Ivy Division arrived in Iraq, the helpdesk has imaged nearly 1,400 computers, created nearly 2,800 user accounts and resolved nearly 800 trouble tickets, Merritt added.
While Merritt oversees automation operations, he said it is the junior-enlisted Soldiers who get the work done behind the scenes.
"(The technicians) are the heart, life and blood of the helpdesk," Merritt said. "They are all very technically proficient and very professional."
Not only does the staff of the helpdesk know their job well, they also enjoy building on the knowledge they already have.
Although the helpdesk stays fairly busy, two Soldiers spend their downtime researching and improving their jobs.
"We're constantly trying to make the system better," Spc. Bryan Pilger, a native of St. Louis, Mo., and part of the helpdesk staff and information systems operators and maintainers with Co. C, STB, 4th Inf. Div.
"Before, the imaging process required much more user interaction, but we wrote new scripts and cut a lot of that out," added Spc. Alan Rubilar, a Falls Church, Va., native, with the helpdesk staff. "Now it requires less time and produces fewer errors."
Working efficiently is a priority for the helpdesk staff, which even puts together an assembly line to make imaging computers easier in the limited space they have inside the division headquarters building.
"We have less to work with this time," said Nacogdoches, Texas, native Staff Sgt. Tracy Smith, the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the helpdesk, Co. C, STB, 4th Inf. Div.
When Smith deployed as part of the helpdesk staff in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07, the staff had a larger space to work in. Even though the space is more crowded now, the Soldier's don't mind working in close quarters.
"I think we're doing a good job," said Smith. "I'm just blessed to be working with the best guys in my job field and, as far as I'm concerned, in the Army."
Technology is constantly evolving, and with highly trained, professional Soldiers staying up-to-date with the flow of information, the 4th Inf. Div. will continue to stay at the forefront of digital development.