Joint Communications

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Marjorie A. Bowlden
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Nine members of the 911th Communications Squadron here recently conducted training in the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist the Army National Guard 786th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion there in setting up a joint instant site communications capability package.


A JISCC is a self-contained unit that can be deployed during emergencies. It connects to a satellite and reestablishes fallen communication systems so that first responders and other agencies can coordinate with one another.


“It’s a complete and total package that not only establishes communications, but also extends the ability to cross multiple frequencies in different places,” said Technical Sgt. David Gross, a cyber systems operations specialist here. “We can actually have a C-130 Hercules talking to the police over the radio, or allow the mayor of a city to speak directly to the pilots.”


This system has been in place at the 786th CSSB on the island of St. Thomas for approximately four years, said Army Maj. Jayson Markham, the battalion support operations officer there. However, it had never been fully operational due to the unavailability of training and expertise.


The 911th CS has worked with the JISCC during joint service exercises three times in the past several years, said Technical Sgt. Brian Barnes, also a cyber systems operations specialist here. Therefore, their reputation with the JISCC was well known, and they were asked to help the 786th CSSB from June 5 to June 20.


However, what the nine Airmen delivered was more than anyone expected.


“They not only made the JISCC 100 percent operational for the first time, but they also put together a standard operating procedure,” said Markham. “They took photos and made a step-by-step guide so that any soldier would be able to pick up the SOP and get it working.”


Their work went beyond the shores of St. Thomas. The nine Airmen were able to set up a similar system on the island of St. Croix, approximately 40 miles away, without even setting foot there.


“They were working on getting this other location up and running over the phone,” said Maj. Bennett Reid, director of communications here. “Bringing their JISCC system up from afar without being able to physically be there and see what’s going on is pretty amazing in my book.”


Their extra efforts were successful all around- and just in time, too. Hurricane season started at the beginning of June and lasts until November.


“This is an incredibly valuable piece of equipment for us because if a hurricane knocks out our infrastructure, we’ll still be able to communicate with the outside world,” said Markham.


The Airmen’s accomplishments were not contingent upon a single person’s skill or contribution, but rather the work of the team as a whole.


“Without having two or three sets of eyes on a task, you can miss something,” said Gross. “Having everyone work together was the best part, and that’s why I think it was so successful. We were a team in the truest sense.”