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PM WIN-T employee ensures SATCOM equipment is up and running

Feb 16, 2011

By Amy Walker

Still early in his career, Marc Crudo has well-exceeded the requirements of Project Manager, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (PM WIN-T) to bring cost-effective, efficient communications pipes to Joint Warfighters across the globe.

"As a young engineer he's performed far above what would be expected from someone of his grade," said Lt. Col. Gregory Coile, Product Manager Satellite Communications (PdM SATCOM). "If you look at the number of DKETs (Deployable Ku Band Earth Terminals) and field service representatives (FSR) that he manages in theater, it says volumes about the level of effort and professionalism that Marc puts in every day."

For the past two years Crudo has served as the project lead for the Army and Marine Corps' DKETs and the Marine Corps' Support Wide Area Networks (SWANs) and Wireless Point to Point Links (WPPL). Crudo has synchronized PdM SATCOM's support staff to meet Warfighter requirements.

DKETs support commercial Ku-Band frequencies and their electronics are housed in separate shelters. They are highly transportable, self-contained, and can establish headquarters-level, network-hub connectivity anywhere a mission demands. Along with managing DKETs procurement and material solution requirements, Crudo also manages the roughly 110 Field Support Representatives (FSRs) needed to support the DKET program in South West Asia (SWA).

"Whether you're communicating in the north, south, east or west you're touching some part of the DKET network due to its robustness," Crudo said. "This robustness makes for a seamless transition to backup equipment or terminals, eliminates long outages and minimizes impact to the Warfighter."

At the present time, DKETs operate exclusively on Ku band, however, PdM SATCOM is in the process of certifying Ka and X band capability to take advantage of the Department of Defense's (DoD) Wideband Global SATCOM satellites, Coile said. Ka, X and Ku band are radio frequencies used for satellite communications. While Ka and X band are used on military satellites, Ku band is used on commercial satellites. Because the DoD has higher efficiency specifications using Ka and X is more efficient and effective than Ku band, and there are significant cost savings by not having to lease commercial satellite time. A drawback to these frequencies is that the amount of bandwidth X and Ka band provide is limited and has to be prioritized by the combatant commander, Coile said.

Crudo manages all of the procurement and material solution requirements for the Marine Corps' WPPLs and SWANs. He also oversees the many FSRs needed to keep these systems up and running. A total of 80 FSRs support the SWAN and WPPL architecture, with 26 of these 80 specifically assigned to SWAN/WPPL terminals.

The SWAN is an integrated, IP-based tactical communications pipe for forward-deployed Marines. Starting as commercial off-the-shelf solution, it became a program of record in 2008. Currently there are 34 SWANs fielded in SWA.

The WPPL systems provide deployed Marines with point-to-point and point-to-multipoint transmission of voice, video and data communications over terrestrial microwave radio links. The device allows data to transfer to remote areas over long distances. Currently in SWA there are 55 WPPLs fielded.

In line with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates Army efficiency initiatives, Crudo is re-working some of the internal processes which are under his direction, especially with the SWAN and WPPL programs.

"Providing cost efficiencies are a part of his normal business and every time a requirement comes up that is one of his primary objectives," Coile said. "With every customer, he makes sure that he maximizes the capability they get out of resources."

For all three capabilities, Crudo draws up the costs on the existing contracts and provides the customer the information and expertise they require. He also ensures that contracts exist to support emerging modifications.

"So if they need to upgrade, whether it's a new Environmental Control Unit or new High Power Amplifier, it's on contract and it's delivered on time," Crudo said.

DKET takes advantage of full contractor logistics support, including contractor Operation and Maintenance (O&M) and Extended Hardware Maintenance agreements, all of which are managed by Crudo. PdM SATCOM has found that leveraging commercial technology with extended hardware maintenance, especially on the DKET program, to be highly cost effective. It enables the budgeting of O&M and personnel on a yearly basis, eliminating the element of surprise costs, Crudo said.

In his current position, Crudo has traveled extensively throughout theater. On his last visit to Afghanistan, he observed the "hurdles and obstacles" that the vendor experienced in manning the DKETs with FSRs. In response, he facilitated new requirements on how DKETs are to be manned, including skill sets and man hours. As these satellite capabilities are updated with new capabilities, such as new modems to provide Ka and X band, the expertise needed by FSRs will change and the satellites will have to be manned accordingly.

"He is constantly on the phone with users in Afghanistan and other Army communicators, and he's a trusted agent to those folks when they require support," Coile said. "We can always count on Marc to deliver."

Amy Walker is a staff writer for Symbolic Systems, Inc. supporting the Army's Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T).

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