COMMAND AND CONTROL
At 20 0001 Dec, airplanes filled the sky between the United States and Panama City, Panama. Changes and updates were pouring in by the minute and the entire task force was being updated. A Joint Task Force South (JTFSO) battle staff was airborne in a specially modified Air Force C-130 known as the Airborne Command and Control Center (ABCCC). The assault units were tied together via the Secure Enroute Communications System (SECOMPS) and all elements were using Tactical Satellite Communications (TACSAT) with aircraft hatch-mount antennas. As a result, the assault units received real-time intelligence from ground elements and situation updates from in-country units. They also reported their delays caused by the ice storm at Ft. Bragg. Commanders and units at all levels continually passed secure updates across long-distance multiple communications media.
Accurate, timely reporting is critical for command and control in contingency operations. During JUST CAUSE, information overload saturated some communications nodes while incomplete reports and failure to follow SOPs compounded the problem. Units must examine procedures for key reports. In the personnel area, focus on casualty feeder reports and accountability. In the intelligence area, look at complete and correct spot reports, follow-up reporting and document exploitation. Operationally, standard reports and requests are the key to responsiveness. JUST CAUSE also validated the need for dedicated liaison officers (LOs) to assist with command and control. Communications nets were constantly overloaded and field commanders were focused on the task at hand with little time for extensive coordination. Unit LOs filled this critical need.
- Practice SOPs for reporting to ensure they are workable and effective.
- Incorporate the use of operation schedules (OPSKEDS) and execution checklists in training to streamline reporting and cut transmission time.
- Use standard terms and graphics. When units are cross-attached, unit specific terms/graphics cause confusion. LOs
- Exchange LOs. They are critical to successful operations.
- Plan to provide LO support staffed for a 24-hour capability for continuous operations. One officer/NCO is not sufficient for continuous operations. Current TOEs do not allow for this.
- Provide adequate communications packages to LOs to maintain communications with parent headquarters and units.
- Integrate LO exchange into training exercises and CTCs.
- Identify LOs prior to the operation. Use them in planning.
- MP units should provide an LO to infantry brigades when MP companies are attached during stability operations.
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