COSCOM utilizes VSAT technology

Story by Sgt. Joel F. Gibson
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office

The 13th Corps Support Command utilized an unusual type of internet connection during its field exercise here Jan. 23 through Jan. 26.

The system is called VSAT, or Very Small Aperture Terminal, can be used to supply commercial internet access and commercial telephone access to a field command post in 7 minutes, something that conventional field internet systems take hours to accomplish, said Maj. Kenneth A. Patterson, Assistant Chief of Staff G-6, 13th COSCOM.

"This is the first time we've actually used this technology during an actual field training exercise," said Joe Morgan, president of Go-Mobile, a Colorado based company working with the COSCOM.

Morgan said, "As soon as they pull in, they can be up with telephones and internet."

Scott Wheeler, a network administrator with Azbell Electronics working with the COSCOM for this exercise, agreed about the importance of quickly acquiring a means of communication, "Set-up time is almost non-existent, you can quickly deploy a command post anywhere."

In addition to providing a quick set-up, VSAT technology increases a unit's flexibility, said Patterson.

"The little bit I saw from working (with VSAT) during (Hurricane) Katrina, is that you can pretty much be anywhere and gain internet connectivity," said Staff Sergeant Correy Harris, the automations NCOIC of 13th COSCOM.

Patterson explained the benefit of COSCOM having access to VSAT, "What it would allow us to do is jump our assault command post, while still maintaining a communications network at the main command post."

"What it gives to (the COSCOM) is flexibility on the battlefield. That's the true benefit of having these systems," Patterson added.

Patterson said, "Right now, the 13th COSCOM has no internal ability to reach the wide-area network, which is everything outside of the COSCOM network. When we go to the field we have to rely on external communications units to support our mission."

While the systems are moderately expensive, Wheeler explains their value, "The ability to move without dependency on other just can't put a dollar figure on that."

"We all learned the same lesson during Katrina, which is it's important to be able to move around the battlefield and maintain connectivity," said Patterson.

While using the system is not a skill taught to Soldiers, it is something that both Patterson and Morgan agreed is easy to learn.

"It's all automated, using an internal (Global Positioning System) and compass," Morgan continued, "It's really a one-man operation."

Patterson added, "VSATs are generally user-friendly, easy to learn, push-button, single-man systems."

Not only do VSATs provide quick and easy internet access, they can also be used to back-up other systems in place.

"VSATs can be both stand-alone systems, and supplementary systems," said Wheeler, "in case one system goes down, the other one can take over."


Very Small Aperture Terminal
A Very Small Aperture Terminal unit provides the 13th Corps Support Command with telephone and internet access during a field exercise here Jan. 24. Photo by Sgt. Joel F. Gibson, 13th COSCOM Public Affairs