Spotlight: Comms in RC South – Afghanistan

Recently Brigadier General (Promotable) Ben Hodges gave a presentation to the Northern Virginia Armed Forces Communications and Electronics (AFCEA) chapter.  General Hodges has recently returned from a tour as Deputy Commander of Regional Command (RC) South in Afghanistan.  He focused the keynote presentation on the communications and data links used to support the warfighter in RC South:

The presentation dovetails nicely with my discussion of Army tactical communications and developments from World War II to the present.  A brief but interesting look at the current state of communications in theater:

BG(P) Hodges Presentation on RC-South’s Communications (PDF)

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A few points I’d like to emphasize.

On the first slide after the cover, General Hodges presented a title with “C5ISR”.  The Army fights with acronyms.  This stands for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Coalition, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance.   Yes, coalition in bold.  The school-house teaches there are 4 “c”s.  Warfighting experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated the need for a 5th.  The communications and data infrastructure over which the war is fought is indeed a shared resource.  Tactical flexibility, which used to be expressed in kilometers-per-hour or maximum range, also must consider how fast it takes to get an instant message down to the subordinate headquarters, regardless of the uniform or flag.

Plenty of photos of troops operating in Afghan, including MCLIC and APOBS (there’s a topic for you XBrad!).  But note the media presence on slides 9 and 10.  The local media is a component of the battlespace in Afghanistan.  As we learned in Iraq, a bit of good press goes a long way.

Look over the photo of the Company TOC on slide 11.  Situational awareness presented via large screen TV.  Several computers with live data feeds.  And on the left, the old “Fox Mike” – FM radio set.   Sort of a mix of the latest and greatest with the communications equipment from my generation.  Photos on the following slides show more command posts.  The old map boards are still there, and still useful in lots of ways.  But notice number of computer screens, telephone systems, and (you have to look for them) the radio sets.

Side 18 presents a great example of how the modern battlefield is increasingly digitized as we fight an information-centric war.  Biometric data collection.  Twenty-five years ago, we could not even anticipate this need.  Today it is a requirement.

And to support all those computers in the CPs, hand-held biometrics collection points, along with all the other gadgets, the warfighter needs bandwidth on those communication links.  Look at slide 21.  Sort of reminds me of that hockey-stick global warming chart.  Eight month time span, the bandwidth expanded ten-fold.  And I bet if you doubled that today, the commanders on the ground would say it’s still not quite enough.

And what does that increased bandwidth look like on the ground?  Slide 23 – a FOB bristling with SATCOM, line of sight, and FM antennas.

The presentation is a good, but quick, look at the communications required to support operations in the battlespace today.  But trust me only brushing the surface….


1 thought on “Spotlight: Comms in RC South – Afghanistan”

  1. I’ll just note in regards to the company Tactical Operations Center (TOC), in my first company, the TOC was the company commander, two radios, and a map folded in his leg pocket.

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