Being all he can be
- By Bob Brewin
- Nov 01, 1998
The active-duty career of Brig. Gen. James Bryan, director for command, control and communications systems for the Pacific Command, definitely lives up to promises of the Army's ''Be all that you can be'' recruiting campaign— a campaign he helped create.
In the 1980s Bryan had a tour with the Army Recruiting Command, where he played a key role in the development of that famous ad campaign as the command's training and management systems director. He has spent the rest of his Army career living up to those words.
A look at Bryan's past assignments presents a picture of someone whose talents vary widely. During an assignment with the 7th Special Forces Group in the early 1970s at Fort Bragg, N.C., Bryan managed to earn his Phi Beta Kappa key— in between parachute jumps and field exercises— while earning a master's degree in education at North Carolina State University. Between subsequent tours with the armor and infantry divisions, Bryan served on four continents as an Army signal officer in Special Forces and Special Operations Command assignments.
In his current assignment, Bryan draws on all that experience to manage the communications and computer assets of a command whose area of responsibility covers 44 countries scattered across 100 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, or roughly half of the world's surface.
Many of the situations Bryan encounters definitely stretch the definition of ''Be all that you can be'' far beyond the experience of the ordinary Army signal officer. With U.S. forces operating on a daily basis in many of the countries within his purview, Bryan and his staff spend a lot of time— and diplomacy— on frequency and spectrum management issues.
Adm. Joseph Prueher, commander in chief of the Pacific Command and Bryan's boss, told Congress earlier this year that countries in the region have started to model their spectrum policies on the frequency auctions in the United States. Consequently, the military may end up incurring charges for exercises it conducts in Australia and Singapore, Prueher said.
Bryan agreed, saying some countries in the region now view allocation of spectrum to U.S. forces as a revenue generator. To counter this trend, Bryan said he wants his military counterparts in other countries to begin viewing spectrum "as a shared resource."
Interoperability— with other nations and among the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine forces in the Pacific— stands out as another key priority, Bryan said. He said he has been a staunch proponent of interoperability since his tour on the Joint Staff in the late 1980s, when he helped develop the strategy that came to be known as ''C4I [command, control, communications, computers and intelligence] for the Warrior.''
Bryan said the Year 2000 compliance of his organization's key command and control systems represents another priority. He noted that the command initially lacked a central system database that would have aided the effort because the National Security Agency had marked the database as classified. Consequently, the Year 2000 effort got off to a slow start. ''The lack of a single Y2K database was a difficult hurdle to overcome,'' Bryan said.
The command turned around and set up its own database and has now started planning large-scale Year 2000-compliance tests of key systems slated for next year, he said.
Bryan embraces technology not for its own sake but for what it can do for his command. For example, the Pacific Command will be the first to use the new Global Broadcast System, which is capable of delivering roughly 30 megabits/sec of data to small field and shipboard terminals. Bryan believes its ultimate acceptance will not depend on the technology but on how the command manages the torrent of information.
Asked what he does in his spare time, Bryan quickly answered with a reply designed to counter any preconceived inside-the-Beltway notions about life in Hawaii. ''We really don't go out surfing here everyday," he said. "In many cases, it's just work, work, work.''
But Bryan added that he, his wife and two children plan to take ''full advantage'' of the opportunities his Pacific tour offers, including time on Oahu's golf courses.
Although Bryan continues to embody the recruiting slogan he helped burn into the American consciousness, he readily acknowledges that he no longer jumps out of airplanes like the actors in the ads he helped create. While he said he would love to do another jump, it would require clearance from a high-ranking Army general— and his wife.
"And I don't think I can clear it with my wife,'' he said.