By Scott Prater
It’s often difficult for organizations to justify travel expenses, especially in today’s budget-conscious environment, but after reporting the results of their recent trip to Fort Gordon, Ga., commanders from the 1st and 7th Space Operations Squadrons shouldn’t have much trouble seeing the value added in-person visits can provide.
Members of Team 8-Ball toured the U.S. Army’s 513th Military Intelligence Brigade during the first week in June and returned to Schriever with an idea to improve communications. Once implemented, the idea carried zero cost, required no hardware upgrades and no extra labor, yet it vastly improved vital communications between Operationally Responsive Space-1 teams here and their ORS-1 mission partners at U.S. Central Command and 513 MIB.
“Simply put, we joined a chat room,” said Capt. Justin Fernandez, 1 SOPS mission commander. “It involves a single login onto a SIPRnet website. The instructions are simple. You click an icon, type in a user name and you’re in.”
Though simple, the new communication link helps 1 and 7 SOPS crews produce and receive better information as it relates to the ORS-1 mission.
“Having the capability to conduct communications with the tasking organization at CENTCOM and the data exploiters at 513 MIB is essential,” said Lt. Col. Mike Manor, 1 SOPS commander. “Our squadrons are able to gain unprecedented situational awareness of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance needs and work on collection tactics with our CENTCOM teammates in near real time.”
Manor, Lt. Col. William Fellows, 7 SOPS commander, Fernandez, and Maj. Laura Kohake, 1 SOPS engineer, toured the 513 MB and took note when they saw brigade operators chatting online.
“We asked if we could join the chat room from our location at Schriever and they said we should have no problem doing so,” Fernandez said. “That was one of the first things we did when we got back. Now, we access the chat room from any SIPRnet computer on the operations floor.”
Fernandez said 1 and 7 SOPS crews will continue to conduct a formal conference call between themselves, CENTCOM [the intelligence customer] and 513 MIB, but that the chat function improves real-time communication.
“This way, we can get the most accurate information available without having to make a bunch of phone calls,” Fernandez explained. “We also used to send out a daily e-mail with information we needed to pass on to both agencies, but often that didn’t circulate until later in the afternoon.”
Satellite operators and 1 SOPS mission commanders see the biggest benefit coming when any type of anomaly arises. Operations crews can receive updates from 513 MIB faster than with previous communication devices and information can reach its proper destination faster, thus allowing for better interpretation and decision making, while eliminating confusion.
“One of the reasons ORS-1 has been so successful is because of the strong relationship we have with our mission partners,” Fernandez said. “Any way we can strengthen that link will benefit us and hopefully strengthen future programs similar to ORS-1.”