Army unit bound for Afghanistan to use first on-the-move comms network

After years of development, the Army is to begin its first deployment of an on-the-move communications network to Afghanistan.

The soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, who are poised to deploy to Afghanistan this summer to assist in the drawdown of U.S. forces, will be the first to use an on-the-move communications network that stays connected over vast distances, providing information throughout the brigade down to the lowest echelons, officials said in an Army news story.

"This is much needed in Afghanistan," BG Walter Piatt, deputy commanding general for support, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) said in the story.

Like their counterparts in the 4th Brigade Combat Team, or BCT, the Division's 3rd BCT will also be deploying as a Security Forces Advise and Assist Team (SFAAT), with the new network later this year, officials said in the story.

"Imagine you're a soldier and you need information on a given area, or you want to see where units are located to your left and right," Piatt said in the story. "You don't want to have to come back to headquarters; you don't want to have to force a transmission over a radio net just to get that. You want to have that information readily available. [This network] allows us to do that on the move, and allows us to do it dismounted as well."

Known as Capability Set 13 (CS 13), the package will allow the 10th Mountain units to utilize advanced satellite-based systems -- augmented by data radios, handheld devices and the latest mission command software -- to transmit voice/chat communications and situational awareness data throughout the SFAAT, the story said. On patrol inside mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles configured with components of CS 13, leaders will be able to exchange information and execute mission command using mobile communications technologies, rather than having to remain in a fixed location to access the network.

The Army targeted the two brigades as the first to receive CS 13 capability because they require advanced communications to carry out their advise-and-assist mission in Operation Enduring Freedom, the story said. While the Afghan forces will be taking a lead in operations, the SFAAT units will have the network capabilities to support with situational awareness and needs such as calls for air support, artillery support and other reach-back communications.

After several months of new equipment training to familiarize soldiers with CS 13, the 4th BCT is now immersed in intensive final preparations for deployment, the story said. The prep includes a several weeks-long Joint Readiness Training Center rotation where they will use the gear in realistic operational scenarios based on the SFAAT mission.

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