Friday, November 21, 2008

Ohio Guard Closes Communications Gap in Afghanistan

By Army Spc. Kimberly Johnson, Special to American Forces Press Service

About 40 soldiers from the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team prepare for an upcoming mission to Afghanistan to establish critical communications assets. The Ohio National Guard brigade, nearing the end of a yearlong tour, is sending about 40 signal soldiers into Afghanistan to establish critical communications assets. (U.S. Army photo)

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait, Nov. 20, 2008 - The Ohio Army National Guard's 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is making its presence felt in three key areas of Central Command: Kuwait, Iraq and now in Afghanistan.

About 40 soldiers from the brigade have been called in to set up Joint Node Network communications in Afghanistan.

"It's a very important, high-priority mission," Army Col. Richard T. Curry, the brigade commander, said. "The soldiers who were selected were selected because of their unique skill set and the training they have accomplished over the last year."

Afghanistan's current infrastructure cannot support consistent, reliable communications. Weather and other environmental issues also are wreaking havoc with the systems now in use.

"Right now, they are not able to call in medical support the way we do in other theaters," Curry said. "There is a communications gap up there. The biggest part of what we will be able to do is fill in that gap, and by doing that, I absolutely believe we will be able to save lives in that theater of operations."

The JNN system will provide the infrastructure for the entire Afghanistan theater with regular and secure Internet, secure phones and voice teleconferencing capabilities, which have not been available in Afghanistan.

"It comes down to the Army has a need. When there's a need, our soldiers answer," Army Capt. Walter Work, Task Force Dragon Blade commander, said. "We were called to serve and help out our fellow soldiers who are hurting as far as communication assets go."

During three months of mobilization training at Fort Hood, Texas, the signal soldiers of the 37th exceeded the expectations of their instructors.

"We have proven ourselves," Work said. "The soldiers we selected to go are the best of the best. We are honored and definitely taking our 'A' team to Afghanistan."