News: Communication technology proves vital for Guard missions
Story by Jennifer Archdekin
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – When conducting a military training exercise of any size, one of the very first things to be put in place is the communication infrastructure. That’s precisely what members of the Missouri Army National Guard 35th Infantry Division in St. Joseph do.
Maj. Ronald Hansen, of Holt’s Summit, is the network operations chief for the division and serves with Company C, 35th Infantry Division in St. Joseph. His unit provides signal support for their division headquartered at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Hansen and his team are responsible for ensuring that there is signal communications connectivity, including voice, data and video, across the battlefield for the higher headquarters. The unit’s equipment can be used at home and abroad, during wartime or for a state emergency.
In this day and age, information technology is crucial. The average person spends a huge portion of the day using phones, computers and the Internet for both business and pleasure. The military is no different, especially the way the battlefield has changed over the years.
“It’s at top of our priorities,” said Hansen. “We always say we are first in and last out. When the division staff needs to go somewhere, we have to get there ahead of time and get all of the infrastructure put in to support the communications once they roll in.”
Hansen said the unit’s mission really doesn’t ever change, in that their role is to always provide communications and connectivity, however the circumstances and location for the overall mission may vary. At a recent drill, members of the unit supported the division during a staff exercise which helped test their communications process across the different war fighting functions.
“We have first-rate equipment,” said Hansen. “It’s all the latest, greatest equipment for us to maintain our training and if we’re needed for state emergency operations also.”
At the fast pace technology changes it’s important for network operations to be on the ball. This poses additional challenges for these traditional Guardsmen who drill once a month, but further solidifies the reason for their need of constant hands-on training.
“The big thing is maintaining the skill set of the operators,” said Hansen. “These are highly technical systems. It’s really tough to maintain somebody that really only does this on a weekend. They may be a Web designer or something in the IT field, but if it’s not that exact same stuff they are responsible for it’s really tough to maintain their skill sets and keep them trained.”
Hansen pointed out that in a corporate environment, there are staff available every day for maintenance and back-ups. He said he’s privileged to have the support of his leadership to allow his team to schedule plenty of training events throughout the year.
“We try to maintain the crew training,” said Hansen. “The operators must maintain those skills throughout the year in case we have to support a live mission. They could employ those systems to support any type of communications need, whether it is a state emergency or we’re deployed overseas.”
Hansen has served in the Missouri National Guard for 24 years. Though he has not always been in the communications field, he said the challenge that this line of work presents is what keeps him engaged.
“It’s the satisfaction of a successful mission,” said Hansen. “Knowing that we got all of these pieces and parts hooked up and talking to each other and seeing everything work the way it’s supposed to work.”
Hansen also works full-time for the Missouri National Guard as the networks operations branch chief in Jefferson City. He ensures all the data and voice communication for the Missouri Guard is up and operational.