Notes From the Field

In the far-flung Pacific it takes more than technology to keep the military connected with its many units and with family and friends back home. It often requires old-fashioned common sense and ingenuity. The following excerpts from a reporter's notebook provide some glimpses from the field:

* NIMITZ HILL Guam - Cmdr. Will Anderson commander of the DISA-Guam field activity here and Lt. Cmdr. Mike Francis the COMNAVMAR N6 spend lunch at the Top-of-the-Mar club here excitedly detailing their joint efforts to equip what Anderson refers to as "this unsinkable aircraft carrier" with state-of-the-art telecommunications gear.

Anderson explains that before taking the DISA job he had little experience with communications spending most of his career as an engineering officer on ships with steam propulsion systems. When his detailer mentioned the DISA job Anderson said "But I do steam." The detailer replied "You're also a commander." And command he does - turning DISA-Guam from a mainframe-oriented organization into a lean fee-for-service client/server support team. This included cross-training the DISA-Guam Information Processing Center secretary Lydia Parco as a network engineer.

* CAMP HANSEN Okinawa - Thirty-two years have passed since I "appropriated" a walk-in refrigerator from the 2nd Battalion 9th Marines comm shack here for transport to Vietnam on an equally "appropriated" deuce-and-a-half truck.

But Marine communicators still have a knack for acquiring and recycling castoffs. Inside the 7th Comm Data Platoon warehouse here Lance Cpl. Martin Taylor pointed out a somewhat battered electronic equipment rack describing it as a leftover from the recently deactivated World Wide Military Command and Control System. "We're going to use it to rack-mount our gear for the field " Taylor said.

* ABOARD THE USS BLUE RIDGE under way off eastern Australia - Cmdr. Mark Jensen 7th Fleet commo gives a tour of the satellite antennas that sprout from the deck of this ship like mushrooms after a spring rain. After describing the extra-high-frequency super-high-frequency and Challenge Athena satellite antennas Jensen points out the last and says simply "CNN." Down below in the command spaces CNN shares the wide-screen displays with the Joint Maritime Command and Control System. Out here CNN should be named CCNN for Command and Control News Network.

* SEOUL South Korea - Soldiers overseas used to grab a bit of downtime to scribble a letter or post card to family at home. Sec. 4 Josh Hardesty waiting for a bus at the Yongsan Military Base in Seoul does the same thing only instead of a post card he's tapping out an e-mail to his wife on his own portable PC.Hardesty also uses Internet Relay Chat to "talk" with his wife back home in the states.

Hardesty an electronic calibration technician also maintains an unofficial Web page for the calibration technicians in South Korea. Check it out at www.geocities.com/capecanaveral/lab/4452.

* OKINAWA - Lt. Col. Paul Lord the director of communications and information systems for the Marine fleet logistics support group prizes frugality and "field-expedient solutions." So while much of DOD pushes the use of fiber-optic cable even in the field Lord takes pride in the copper cables he installed to support Operation Tandem Thrust. "We daisy-chained over two miles of copper cable with splices " Lord said "and to weatherproof the splices we used Ziploc sandwich bags."

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