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    The tale of the tower: New York National Guard signal Soldiers solve commo woes to keep exercise running

    New York National Guard Soldiers solve commo woes at Fort Drum

    Courtesy Photo | New York Army National Guard 1st Lt. Joseph Cocchini, a platoon leader with the 42nd...... read more read more

    FORT DRUM, NY, UNITED STATES

    06.20.2015

    Story by Sgt. J.P. Lawrence 

    New York National Guard

    FORT DRUM, N.Y. - The Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division Signal Company had a problem.

    Their job was keeping the 42nd Infantry Division and the Vermont Army National Guard’s 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team connected during Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade training conducted June 13-26, during annual training here.

    But something was killing the signal.

    The 42nd Infantry Division and the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team had placed their command posts approximately seven miles apart. At each site, the 42nd Signal Soldiers had raised a High Capacity Line of Sight, or HCLOS, antenna mast. The masts sent a direct signal between the two headquarters.

    The problem was the direct signal was being interrupted. The HCLOS is much like a telescope. The signal is beamed in a straight line. If something is in the way, the signal is blocked.

    The commander of the 42nd Infantry Division couldn’t talk to the commander of the 86th Brigade.

    1st Lt. Joseph Cocchini, a Rochester resident, and a platoon leader with the 42nd Signal Company, brainstormed with his troops.

    Cocchini said they found the GPS coordinates for both towers and placed them on a map.

    After plotting a line between the two masts, they found a symbol for a vertical obstruction in the middle of the two. The vertical obstruction was a water tower, one just tall enough to interfere with the signal. They also found, in addition to the water tower, numerous trees blocking the signal.

    It was a computer program that had suggested the sites for the two masts, but it was up to the Soldiers of the 42nd Signal Company to find a way around the water tower.

    The first idea they considered was moving the masts. But at each location there were buildings and trees in the way. Moving a mast would also require shutting down that mast, and any communication between the masts, for a day.

    Another idea was raising one mast high enough for the signal to go over the tower. But that did not increase the signal much at all.

    Also, raising the mast further could be dangerous. "It's a bit like stacking markers together," Cocchini said. "The higher you go, the more it wants to tip over."

    Talking among themselves, the Soldiers decided to pursue the last option available to them: re-configuring the cables that come out of the mast.

    "Really long transmission lines," said Sgt. Raymond Zajac. "The signal almost loses momentum - every step of the way you run into resistance. You shorten that path, and the signal's going to be much stronger."

    Zajac, from Interlaken, New York, was in charge of operations at one tower.

    Zajac had set up the tower initially with the assistance of Staff Sgt. Delores Gordon of the 10th Mountain Division, who had been doing signal work for 18 years.

    The tower loomed high in the sky as the soldiers, pulling guide wires, radiated from its base.

    Over the course of approximately 12 hours, Zajac continually referred to the tower's manual as he directed his troops to cut out a portion of the transmission path and put the amplifier closer to the base of the antenna.

    At the other site, seven miles away, Soldiers there did the same thing.

    "That increased the power," Zajac said, "and that got us to pretty much optimal data speeds."

    Successful troubleshooting of the HCLOS was especially important, said Capt. Ryan Brountas, commander of the 42nd Division Signal Company, because satellite communications at Fort Drum during annual training were unreliable.

    Due to its speed and reliability, the HCLOs became the primary link between the 42nd Infantry Division and the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during the exercise, the "backbone" link, Brountas, a Syracuse resident, said.

    It had taken some thought, but the Soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division Signal Company had solved their problem.

    The two units were connected, and the towers had done their job, Brountas said.

    "The really amazing thing is that this unit has not set up a HCLOS since 2006," Brountas said, "so the fact that these guys were able to do this is an example of the kind of Soldiers we've got."

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 06.20.2015
    Date Posted: 06.25.2015 10:07
    Story ID: 168076
    Location: FORT DRUM, NY, US 
    Hometown: BUFFALO, NY, US
    Hometown: FORT DRUM, NY, US
    Hometown: INTERLAKEN, NY, US
    Hometown: ROCHESTER, NY, US

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