CAMP TAJI, Iraq – In preparation for the expected pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq at the conclusion of Operation New Dawn, Charlie Company, 640th Aviation Support Battalion, will provide tactical signal support for the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, now controlling about half of Army aviation assets in Iraq.
Charlie Company’s primary role is to ensure that tactical communications, whether Internet, radio or telephones, are constantly up and running.
“They are the backbone of the tactical communications network for the combat aviation brigade,” said Capt. David Rosales, Charlie Company commander.
Tactical communications use line of site dishes and mobile relay systems which occupy a small footprint. Charlie Company maintains and operates the tactical systems for the brigade and subordinate units.
It has detachments at both Contingency Operating Base Warrior in Kirkuk and COB Speicher in Tikrit in northern Iraq. In Kirkuk, the communications team provides backup tactical communications for the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop of the 6-17th Cavalry Squadron. They transmit to and from a Joint Network Node at COB Speicher which relays data to other locations throughout the Iraq joint operations srea.
“We are here to support 6-17 Cavalry on communications, from telephone to laptops and regular Internet,” Sgt. Ruben Cruz from Charlie Company, and a resident of Buena Park, Calif., explained.
The tactical network system runs through a Command Post Node which is a mobile unit that connects to a Satellite Transportable Terminal to uplink data to communication satellites. Communications specialists are responsible for monitoring the communication feed to make sure there are no disruptions dropping the feed.
40th CAB units currently rely on a combination of strategic and tactical communications systems. Strategic communications, which include contractor-provided Internet, cables and telephones, are permanently built on operating base infrastructures. Strategic systems are maintained by contractor personnel and tactical communications augment and serve as a backup to the strategic network.
At some point, the strategic networks at bases will be withdrawn from the post, leaving the tactical networks as the primary means of communications.
Cruz explained what discontinuing the strategic network and relying solely on the tactical network would mean to the HHT.
“Right now, the bandwidth we have could be compared to the size of a one-inch wire rope, that’s really thick and big,” Cruz said. “If we were to go down to full tactical, it will be less than a shoestring. So I will be supporting around a maximum of 10 phone systems and 10 computer systems.”
“When the civilian contractor-provided Internet goes down, we put our equipment into play so soldiers can still have communications,” Cruz explained.
Cruz and his team have been in Kirkuk since February and will be there throughout the summer. Spc. Mario Perez, from Charlie Company, and a native of Freedom, Calif., is part of the team as a CPN operator. His duties include establishing and monitoring the tactical network system.
“We set up voice, meaning telephone systems, and data for the Internet as well as other types of communication. We then monitor the connections to the router switches and to the users, in addition to the connections to the STT and hubs, and make sure that there is no break in service,” Perez said.
Members of Charlie Company continue to back up the strategic communications on a daily basis throughout central and northern Iraq and are ready for the tactical network to become the primary means of communications as the bases prepare to close in conjunction with the drawdown. They have been anticipating the drawdown all year and are ready to put their tactical network in motion as the mission posture in Iraq changes.