Liaison officer connect Warfighters in Afghanistan with PEO C3T support
Liaison officer links needs in the field to DOD's acquisition process
By Claire Heininger
Call him the “eyes and ears” for his leadership back in the United States. Or the “easy button” for Soldiers who need an answer.
Either way, Maj. Andy Gilman’s job is crucial. As the primary on-the-ground representative in Afghanistan for the Army’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), Gilman serves as a conduit between deployed Warfighters and the acquisition workforce charged with meeting their needs.
“He’s there to make the Warfighters’ concerns and requirements his own, feel their perspective and understand what it looks like from their foxhole,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Coile, Product Manager Satellite Communications (PdM SATCOM). “The LNO tries to be the easy button for those guys — you may not be the expert on each system, but you can get them in touch with the right person. He keeps us aware of Warfighter concerns [so] we can can address them very quickly.”
Since Gilman’s deployment as PEO C3T Liaison Officer (LNO) in November 2010, he has helped extend tactical communications to remote and mountainous areas of the country by aiding in the rapid fielding of Secure Internet Protocol Router/Non-secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR/NIPR) Access Points (SNAP) terminals, Coile said. SNAPs — smaller satellite terminals that are easily transportable by vehicle or by helicopter — provide beyond line of sight communications to small units at Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), enabling network connectivity down to the team, platoon and company level.
Even when a PEO C3T capability is not specifically requested, there can be a ripple effect that requires support, Gilman said. For example, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other systems that collect intelligence depend on the network to bring that information into the common operating picture (COP).
“Whether it’s full-motion video or some other capability, without that communications network in place, that data or that video isn’t going anywhere,” Gilman said. “Anytime there is a communications impact, there is potential to affect C3T systems. I’m almost like an ambassador for PEO C3T – getting the right people together and getting the right information together to make sure everybody gets their questions answered and gets the information and solutions that they want and need.”
Gilman also played a key role in the coordination and fielding of the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS)-ISAF (CX-I) secure network, the U.S. component of the Afghan Mission Network (AMN), said Ted Kostich, chief of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Field Support Branch for the PEO C3T Readiness Management Division.
The Afghan Mission Network, which allows coalition nations to share data from their respective secure networks in a centralized location, has transformed battlefield planning and collaboration by the United States and its allies.
“The fight is on CENTRIX over here,” Gilman said, adding that the lessons learned from standing up AMN will be valuable in future conflicts. "We are not going to be fighting as U.S. only any time soon. It's going to be coalition fights into the future."
Gilman has experienced the difference. Prior to joining PEO C3T, where he is assigned to Project Manager Battle Command, he deployed to Iraq from August-December 2008 as LNO for the Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S). Afghanistan is trickier, he said, due to the need to collaborate with NATO on everything from getting equipment in and out of theater to what’s served at the salad bar in the dining facility.
“A lot of it is forming relationships, and finding out who you need to talk with to expedite things,” Gilman said. “Other times, it’s just a matter of not taking no for an answer.”
Across both theaters, the LNO role requires long hours due to the time difference with the United States. Most days are “two days rolled into one,” Gilman said.
That dedication is recognized by his colleagues back home. Kostich described him as “PEO C3T’s eyes and ears in Operation Enduring Freedom.”
“From his detailed weekly updates, to his daily coordination with unit personnel, Digital System Engineers, and Field Service Representations, he has been instrumental in C4ISR problem identification and resolution,” Kostich said.
George Stanley, OEF Theater Lead for Project Manager Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (PM FBCB2), worked with Gilman in Afghanistan and said the LNO succeeded in connecting the troops and those who support them.
“He’s made a major difference in sustaining and improving support for all Program Management Offices and their respective combat systems utilized by almost all units throughout Afghanistan,” Stanley said. “Andy's non-stop effort and tireless dedication to supporting the PMOs and the units in Afghanistan is admirable and sets an example for all to emulate.”