On 20-21 Dec, 2d Bde, 7th Inf Div (L), deployed to Panama and was given an AO ranging west from the Panama Canal to the Costa Rican border, an area of over 14,000 square miles. Operations were characterized by numerous widely dispersed company and platoon-sized units on search and secure missions. This required long-range secure communications for command and control. The only reliable and workable secure means of command and control communications for the 2d Bde was the single-channel TACSAT radio.
Current communications technology allowed in-country, reinforcing, and follow-on forces to plan and constantly update operational status often while en route. The multitude of communications systems were integrated by several key nodes connecting joint forces as well as Army units with different systems and capabilities. Probably the two most significant elements of the network were the Airborne Command and Control Center (ABCCC) and the 1109th Sig Bde's extensive fixed sites in Panama. Also, the state-of-the-art satellite and multichannel unit radios provided essential command and control links.
- TACSAT radios are invaluable to units dispersed over extended distances.
- STU IIIs with facsimile devices allow units to send secure communications, including overlays, photos and documents, in a matter of minutes rather than hours over existing phone lines. This also helps to reduce traffic on other nets.
- Lithium batteries at half the weight, better power retention and longer life are worth the additional cost.
- Hatch-mount antennas for aircraft remain a high demand item, and must be planned for and requested well in advance.
- The Secure Enroute Communications Package (SECOMP) was critical for monitoring status because of the ice storm at Ft. Bragg which delayed a portion of the force.
- AN/PRC-126 Squad Radio worked well, especially in MOUT. Minor criticisms noted the audio signal for low battery and other functions which jeopardized position security and the need for an ear piece and whisper mike.
- Commercial Walkie-Talkies (Bricks) were used by several units to augment their administrative communications. Brick radios were used for perimeter security, communications within the logistical areas and MOUT.
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