NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. – Members from each of the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command’s (JECC) subordinate joint commands – the Joint Planning Support Element (JPSE), the Joint Public Affairs Support Element (JPASE) and the Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE) – recently participated in Talisman Saber 13 (TS13), a biennial exercise jointly sponsored by U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) and the Australian Defence Force Headquarters Joint Operations Command.
From July 15 – Aug. 5, more than 27,000 U.S. and Australian personnel participated in TS13, which focused on training both countries’ militaries in crisis planning for contingency operations.
TS13 consisted of a simultaneous, integrated Command Post Exercise and Field Training Exercise aimed at improving Australian Defence Force and U.S. military combat readiness and interoperability. In addition to strengthening the U.S.-Australian alliance, TS13 also served as the culminating event in the recertification of U.S. 7th Fleet as a USPACOM joint task force (JTF)-capable headquarters and certification of the Australian Deployable Joint Force Headquarters (DJFHQ).
This complex exercise, which included numerous training objectives designed to test the multilateral collaboration of U.S. and Australian forces across a wide range of military operations at sea, ashore and in the air, provided an opportunity for the JECC to demonstrate the versatility and scope of the command’s capabilities. More than 30 JECC members were dispersed throughout various exercise sites in the U.S. and Australia including two unique locations; afloat on the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) and en route aboard a C-17.
As the Department of Defense’s resident experts in crisis planning and command and control (C2) of joint force headquarters, JPSE was a valuable player during various portions of the TS13 exercise. Fourteen JPSE members were integrated with Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet and members of the Australian Defence Force aboard the USS Blue Ridge as part of Combined Task Force (CTF-660), which was responsible for the C2 of the exercise. The team filled key positions on the CTF staff, providing expertise and knowledge in each of JPSE’s functional areas – operations, plans, knowledge management, logistics and intelligence support – and ultimately contributing to the successful recertification of U.S. 7th Fleet.
“This was a great opportunity to apply the full range of JPSE’s distinct capabilities,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Eric Mostoller, the JPSE lead for TS13. “From leading and participating in Operational Planning Teams to working side-by-side with the Australians; this exercise offered an ideal environment to practice and employ our core skill sets.”
Additionally, two JPSE members were embedded with Commander, U.S. Third Fleet in San Diego, Calif., which served as the Combined Force Maritime Component Command (CFMCC), one of the four functional service components under CTF-660 during TS13. The JPSE personnel assumed critical responsibilities in the execution of the CFMCC’s mission to include developing plans and briefing the CFMCC Commander on capabilities.
JCSE, as well, supported multiple mission sets across various locations during TS13. From parachuting into Australia with communications equipment to forming the initial communications backbone for exercise participants; JCSE demonstrated their diverse capabilities both, in the air and on the ground.
Four members of JCSE’s 4th Joint Communications Squadron (JCS) and four members of JCSE’s 1st JCS participated in a unique airborne operation during TS13 consisting of a non-stop, 14-hour flight aboard a C-17 from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska to Australia. The 4th JCS members operated an en route communications package designed specifically for this exercise to provide secure and non-secure network access and phone capabilities to the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division (4-25th).
Like JCSE’s other communications packages, this airborne ‘en route’ equipment set, known as the Joint Airborne Communications Center/Command Post (JACC/CP), is modular in nature. Depending on the customer’s requirements, the JACC/CP can be employed as a small stand-alone kit (similar to TS13) or can be scaled up to a larger system complete with a seating pallet, if space on the aircraft allows. The JACC/CP stand-alone kit allowed the 4-25th Commander to communicate directly with the Combined Force Land Component Command (CFLCC) Commander on the ground in Australia at all times.
“This was the first time that we completed an operation of this type and scope during a major combatant command exercise,” said U.S. Army Tech. Sgt. Ricky Uth, a 4th JCS member. “The success of this mission has set a precedent for similar, future en route support operations.”
The highlight of the TS13 airborne mission was a forced entry exercise in which over 400 paratroopers from the 4-25th parachuted into Australia’s Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland and then conducted follow-on missions and tasks related to the TS13 training objectives. Four 1JCS members also parachuted into Australia, along with two small communications packages, known as Initial Entry Packages (IEP), to provide communications support for the 4-25th teams. The small size of the IEP, which fits in two suitcases, is an ideal solution for remote locations requiring rapid communications capabilities.
Immediately upon landing in the drop zone, the 1JCS members set up the IEPs to provide the 4-25th teams with classified network connectivity to communicate with the CFLCC; effectively enabling the successful completion of exercise objectives.
“JCSE provided data and communications support in the drop zone,” said U.S. Army Maj. Jason Miller, the 1JCS Operations Officer. “Our services were critical to the 4-25th follow-on mission.”
U.S. Army Col. Jim Carpenter, the I Corps G6 Director, agreed saying, “The en route communications support [to 4-25th] was great all the way from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to when [the JCSE personnel] exited the aircraft in Australia.”
JCSE’s 1JCS also employed two teams of four personnel each to provide the communications for the Combined Logistics Group in Rockhampton, Australia and the U.S. Army’s I Corps, which served as the CFLCC, in Brisbane, Australia. Each team employed an Early Entry Package, JCSE’s mid-sized communications equipment set, designed to provide classified and unclassified network access, voice and video teleconferencing capabilities for up to 40 users. Each of these teams was responsible for the uninterrupted connectivity of communication services to the units they were supporting throughout the duration of TS13.
JPASE members were also dispersed across USPACOM's area of operations and adapted their joint public affairs (PA) skill sets to support three very different mission sets within TS13. In Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, JPASE members worked behind-the-scenes as media role players contributing to the realism of the exercise. They also filled the PA higher-command roles as USPACOM PA and Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (PA), providing the PA training audience the proper PA guidance and authority to release information as different pieces of the scenario were brought into exercise play.
Two additional JPASE members participated in the exercise by integrating with CTF-660 as members of the PA staff preparing senior leaders for media engagement, developing PA guidance, and responding to questions from the media. Paul Noel, a JPASE civilian PA planner and a Navy Reservist, said CTF-660 PA successfully integrated JPASE members, 7th Fleet active duty and reservists, and our Australian Defence Force partners.
"This exercise was a great example of how we can go anywhere and become part of a larger team to achieve a mission," Noel said. "We became such a good team after only a few days it was as if we had been working together for years."
Finally, one JPASE member supported the U.S. consulate in Sydney, Australia, executing real-world media operations promoting TS13 to international news outlets. This was a key role in assuring information released to the public was in sync between the Australian and U.S. governments.
Because of the wide range of support JPASE provided behind the scenes, within the exercise and in support of real-world PA operations, members were able to work in close partnership with their Australian counterparts at multiple levels and were impressed by the U.S. - Australia alliance.
"The interoperability between the U.S. and the Australian Defence Force during TS13 was seamless," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Indovina, who was integrated with the CTF-660 PA office. "We mutually understood each others' processes and working together towards a common goal only strengthened that bond."
A key advantage of the JECC is the ability to tailor the command’s capabilities to the specific requirements and needs of the joint force commander. TS13 validated not only the broad range of the JECC’s capabilities but demonstrated how the command can be simultaneously employed during multiple facets of an operation to bring the highest level of expertise and skill to achieve the mission at hand.