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U.S. Army Africa’s Forward Command Element ready to roll

July 14, 2011

By Rich Bartell, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs

VICENZA, ITALY (Army News Service, July 14, 2011) -- When the U.S. Army Africa Forward Command Element rolls onto a C-130 to head to Ghana in August, it will be with state-of-the-art electronics allowing worldwide communications.

The USARAF FCE, similar to a tactical operations center with sophisticated Internet and video teleconference capabilities, is a flexible command post that responds to deployment requests through U.S. Africa Command.

USARAF executed an operational needs statement to validate and resource requirements for a command post platform vehicle and a SIPRNET NIPRNET Access Point satellite terminal. USARAF then combined it with additional equipment from their Army-fielded Standardized Integrated Command Post System; specifically with one Trailer Mounted Support System Medium system and associated network, video, and radio systems. Working with DA G3/5/7 Land War Net, DA G6, and PEO-C3T; USARAF designed the ECP to be rapidly deployable, highly mobile, self-powered, self-air-conditioned, provide all the networks and radios to command and control operations, and function in a joint, inter-agency, inter-governmental, and multinational environment.

To meet this requirement, USARAF added two networks to the ECP: a CENTRIX-ready network for use with and by coalition partners; and a commercial Internet network for use by non-governmental organizations, as well as inter-governmental and inter-agency partners who may not have authorization to work on NIPR or SIPR networks.

Finally, USARAF worked with several program offices and field service representatives to integrate all of the Army battle command systems and several joint systems into the ECP to ensure effective command and control of Army and joint units.

During a recent tour of the mobile command center, USARAF commander, Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg saw firsthand the power and flexibility of the mobile command post.

“Our C-130 (aircraft) version of a crisis command headquarters makes USARAF capable of deploying anywhere in the world if needed, but more specifically, anywhere in Africa. We can roll off the plane and within two hours have a fully operationally command and control system to cover any environment, Army pure, joint or inter-agency. We have tremendous capability now,” Hogg said.

Hogg expressed his gratitude to Soldiers of the USARAF G-6, Communications and Information Services and higher headquarters.

“Col. Joe Angyal and his G-6 staff have done a wonderful job and none of this would have happened without the support of Headquarters Department of the Army. So we definitely want to thank them,” Hogg added.

Recently, USARAF communications Soldiers with the FCE took on the challenges that new electronics can pose. The new system provides worldwide communications capability along with the added ability to work from a remote location with few amenities.

With the ECP, USARAF can deploy its FCE within 72 hours of receiving a deployment order from U.S. Africa Command. While the limited size of the ECP can only facilitate up to 20 users, it can easily scale up to support 50 users with additional tents or building space. This gives USARAF the ability to quickly deploy a small element in support of a non-combatant evacuation or humanitarian assistance/disaster relief mission, with the full suite of communications systems required to conduct initial coordination with an embassy, gain situational awareness, and command and control subordinate units.

Spc. James Lagerstrom, an information technology specialist assigned to USARAF, deploys with the ECP as one of the Soldiers ensuring its communications gear is set up and operational.

“Wherever we go… we can communicate,” Lagerstrom said. “We have Internet and even have video teleconference ability, as well as being highly mobile.”

In August the FCE will get a chance do a live shake down test of its communications equipment in Ghana. The DEPEX in August will be USARAF’s first opportunity to exercise the deployment of the ECP, including loading it on an Air Force aircraft and flying it to a mission area.

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