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Keeping U.S. Army At Technology Forefront
by U.S. Army Spc. Ryan Scribner
May 3, 2023

In 2014, Fort Gordon’s U.S. Army Signal Center of Excellence, now the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence, trained more Soldiers than any other branch training center.

And throughout the years, the U.S. Army Signal Corps has been on the cutting edge of advancements in technology and modernization. For example, in the 369th Sustainment Brigade, a historical unit in the New York Army National Guard, enlisted Soldiers, warrant officers and commissioned officers understand that communication capabilities are ever-changing, and they adapt to those changes to modernize the mission.

Soldiers in the 369th SB signal section support mission command at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, but they also enabled the very existence of the brigade’s Tactical Action Center (TAC) in Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia.

The signal section at the TAC consisted of soldiers from the brigade and from its subordinate unit, the 187th Signal Company.

Each section operated out of a tent or an M1087 Expandable Van, but for each Soldier to effectively complete their work, the complex implementation, synchronization, and management of information networks and satellites needed to occur.

A primary mission of the signal section for the TAC is to provide all the Soldiers in the brigade working at the site, computer connectivity and help desk support so they can connect with the main body at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and accomplish their job, said Capt. Christine Atwell, a network operations officer in charge of the signal section at the TAC.

U.S. Army Capt. Chrstine Atwell, a networks operations officer with the 369th Sustainment Brigade, briefs Maj. Gen. Michel Natali, assistant adjutant general Joint Force Headquarters New York, on the signal section’s work during the Tactical Activity Center on March 2, 2023. The 369th SB is a historic organization in the New York Army National Guard. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Ryan Scribner.)
U.S. Army Capt. Chrstine Atwell, a networks operations officer with the 369th Sustainment Brigade, briefs Maj. Gen. Michel Natali, assistant adjutant general Joint Force Headquarters New York, on the signal section’s work during the Tactical Activity Center on March 2, 2023. The 369th SB is a historic organization in the New York Army National Guard. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Ryan Scribner.)

“The mission requires our section to constantly collaborate to resolve issues because we solely rely on our capabilities out here,” Atwell said. “Back in the rear, we have additional support from the strategic network or other units, but we rely solely on our equipment, knowledge base, and skillsets.”

Atwell brought to the TAC a Project Management Professional Certification (PMP), an elite certification offered by the Project Management Institute. The certification recognizes project managers who have proven they have the skills to manage any project successfully.

As a signal project, the TAC establishes data access for all of the sections present. When a Soldier in one of these sections uses a Secure Internet Protocol Router/Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR/NIPR) for individual communication needs, they turn on a computer. After a login interface, access to data and the main body are no further than their fingertips.

But every dimension of the network requires hands-on application, said Sgt. 1st Class James Balavram, an information technology supervisor at the TAC.

From the cutting and crimping of the network Ethernet cables to the installation of an intricate system of network routers, switches, and access points, the configuration of network settings and security protocols, testing and troubleshooting network connectivity and performance, and the installation and setup of network management and monitoring tools, there are many steps involved in establishing a network.

Further, the signal section provided Soldiers access to data using satellite equipment that worked with the intricate network routers, ensuring mission efficacy through enhanced information transmission.

Spc. Antony Mei, an information technology specialist with the 187th Signal Company, said that besides providing Soldiers with access to communication channels and the data needed to complete the mission, the signal section also encrypts the information.

U.S. Army Spc. Antony Mei, an information technology specialist with the 187th Signal Company 369th Sustainment Brigade, stands near satellite equipment at the brigade TAC site on Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia on February 23, 2023. The satellite equipment provides mission support through video, audio and data transmission. The 369th SB is a historic organization in the New York Army National Guard. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Ryan Scribner.)
U.S. Army Spc. Antony Mei, an information technology specialist with the 187th Signal Company 369th Sustainment Brigade, stands near satellite equipment at the brigade TAC site on Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia on February 23, 2023. The satellite equipment provides mission support through video, audio and data transmission. The 369th SB is a historic organization in the New York Army National Guard. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Ryan Scribner.)

“For example, if a Soldier sends an email right now before it even leaves the router stacks and hits the satellite, the information gets encrypted,” Mei said.

Security is something that 369th SB signal section leadership provides throughout the brigade.

Balavaram has CompTIA Security+ certification and possesses the core knowledge required to bring cybersecurity to any network he establishes.

His training gives him a keen insight into physical security, cameras, barriers and a wide range of security tools. Network security also involves computer firewalls, virus detection, the prevention of spoofing, scams, ransomware, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and other threats.

“The training helps with operational security in terms of making clear the importance of having physical security of the TAC in the form of posted guards, but also in providing a nuanced cyber awareness in that it helps with identifying certain types of scams,” Balavaram said. “One such example is complex phishing scams.”

Many Soldiers’ understanding of computers may be limited to the basics of turning on the computer, logging on to a system, and using basic programs. The Army teaches Soldiers of all ranks basic cyber awareness. But Soldiers can continue developing their cyber awareness and computer skills as technology advances and cyber threats become more sophisticated.

Signal Soldiers of all ranks in the Army have specialized knowledge and nuanced understandings of computers and computer networks. However, in the 369th SB, the signal section knows that technology change never stops and learning should not either.

Computer networks are a foundational technology that underpins much of modern communication and collaboration and are essential for businesses, governments, and other organizations to function effectively in today’s digital world. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Silvestre Sosa, a network management technician and subject matter expert, continues to expand his knowledge and expertise in this area to ensure the ongoing success of these critical networks.

Sosa, who has the vendor-neutral Network+ certification, which covers a wide range of networking concepts and technologies, including protocols, security, troubleshooting, and network design, said that certifications not only make Soldiers better able to accomplish the mission but it makes them more professional and competitive for the jobs in the civilian world as well.

“These certifications allow Soldiers to demonstrate their experience, and then they can apply that knowledge to the equipment,” Sosa said.

Through ongoing training efforts, U.S. Army Signal Corps-trained personnel in the 369th SB have remained at the forefront of technological advancements and modernization, adapting communication capabilities to modernize missions and ensure success in today’s digital world.

“And when Soldiers return home, these certifications strengthen their skillsets,” Atwell said. “Out here, the skills support the mission, but when they go out in the job market and go back home into the workplace, they can find jobs that will help them.”

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