News: Signaleers provide communications support to Operation Steppe Eagle
Story by Christopher Dunne
CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT – Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, A Company, 50th Signal Battalion deployed to Kazakhstan July 31-Aug. 23 to provide Third Army/ARCENT with the tactical communications equipment and technical expertise needed to operate and maintain voice, internet and data communications during Operation Steppe Eagle 2011.
The Fort Bragg-based Signal platoon, forward-deployed to 54th Signal Battalion at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, ran nearly a mile of cable, locked the satellite terminal trailer onto the satellite, configured the Command Post Node and began providing communications support to customers within 72 hours of their arrival at Illisky Base Camp in eastern Kazakhstan.
The Signaleers set up non-secure Internet protocol router and secure Internet protocol router networks, giving customers access to a full range of telephone and internet services.
“We installed cable to all of our end users and everybody had the capability to come up on the SIPR/NIPR voice and data networks,” Spc. Anthony Mineer said. “Normally it would take about 24 hours to get everybody set up, but we had a few difficulties.”
The CPN team followed standard procedures in order to troubleshoot equipment problems. “We independently tested each component, wire, and cable on our tactical satellite in order to identify the problem,” Dolak explained. “Once the problem was isolated and resolved, our tactical satellite immediately linked with the distant satellite to provide reach back to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.”
Establishing end-user connectivity to the networks also presented some challenges for the team. “We had 36 users on the NIPR side and all of them came from completely different areas of the United States,” Mineer said. “All of them had different admin rights. So we had to figure out the admin rights for all the computers, and set up user names and passwords for everybody on the network.”
Issues with proxy servers and printer connections also kept the team busy during the early days of the exercise, but once technical issues were resolved the CPN team shifted their focus to operating and maintaining the network.
The team was also able to spend some time interacting with their counterparts in the Kazakhstan army, despite some communication challenges.
“We worked closely with a Kazakhstan army signal team and gave them a brief overview of signal flow and signal theory,” Dolak said. “I taught a Kazakh army sergeant about Operation Orders, specifically the Command and Signal portion of the Operation Order and how to write it. He was interested, and it was something his chain of command wanted him to learn.”
The sergeant was fluent in English, Dolak said—but that wasn’t always the case.
“The night shift had a 24-hour guard posted on our operations center,” said Pvt. Kenneth Wright. “We tried to get past the language barrier and talk to them. They spoke maybe ten words of English, so we had to do a lot of hand gesturing.”
Dolak explained that only Kazakh officers and cadets are taught English.
“They’re pretty fluent, actually, and they’re anxious to try to speak English to improve their skills” he said. “But the younger enlisted Soldiers didn’t know much English,” Dolak said.
The CPN team also had an opportunity to fire weapons used by their counterparts in the Kazakhstan army. “Our main job was obviously to manage communications,” Mineer said. “But we had a chance to fire an AK-47, AK-74, RPK machine gun, RPG rocket launcher and the Dragunov sniper rifle.”
“Their military works a lot different than ours does as far as command structure is concerned,” Dolak said. “But we learned a lot about their culture, and it was a great mission for the team in terms of both signal familiarity and cultural awareness.”
The Command Post Node team included 1st Lt. Ryan Dolak, Sgt. Justin Beaver, Spc. Anthony Mineer, Spc. Jason Cooper and Pvt. Kenneth Wright.