Wireless LAN links ammo outpost to base

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — Within the past week, Army logistics specialists have connected an ammunition outpost more than two miles away via a secure, wireless local-area network that enables basic Internet access and the automatic downloading of critical information back to the base.

The Combat Service Support Automated Information System Interface (CAISI) is a wireless LAN that provides "last-mile connectivity" between combat service support computers and the base network.

Jose Ilarraza, a logistics management specialist here from the Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Va., said the remote ammunition outpost had no communications capabilities prior to the March 26 establishment of CAISI. The self-healing network uses an 11-megabit "pipe" FTP for transferring data, and has omnidirectional antenna and encryption at both ends.

"Because we're dealing with ammo, the importance of this information increases" up the chain of command, Ilarraza said.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Peters, stock control noncommissioned officer in charge of the theater storage area, said before the CAISI hook-up, his staff had to save the ammunition data on a disk and then drive about 30 minutes to hand-deliver it to the required location on base.

"The disk creates errors, but now we can do everything automatically" on the Standard Army Ammunition System-Modernization (SAAS-Mod), Peters said. "It's like using the regular Internet. And we can use the 'net' to look up more updated [ammunition] information, because most of the books are outdated."

SAAS-Mod feeds the Integrated Logistics Analysis Program — the data repository portion of the Logistics Common Operating Picture — that Army logisticians here have been developing for the past few months, Ilarraza said.

The wireless LAN is also being used to transmit data collected by radio frequency identification tags and scanners that are used to track the movement and location of ammunition, Peters said.

CAISI uses mostly commercial off-the-shelf products housed in a rugged, military casing, said Maj. Carter Corsello, support operations officer for the logistics automation office. Among the vendors contributing to the CAISI program are Fortress Technologies with its AirFortress wireless security suite, as well as overall information technology support from Technical and Management Services Corp.

The wireless connectivity enables work to be done in minutes that normally takes hours to complete, and if the ammunition outpost had to wait for the "wire dogs" to run fiber lines out there, the rough terrain and constant splicing would quickly degrade the network, Corsello said.

He added that the war effort has produced many unplanned problems that are empowering innovative thinking and technological solutions, which would normally take much longer to get approved. "We're doing things here we couldn't do normally because of the situation," Corsello said. "We just try not to take too much advantage."

The use of CAISI at the ammunition outpost is the second one in southwest Asia. The first one, set up at another outpost located about four miles outside Camp Arifjan, was completely unplanned. To install it, the automated logistics assistance team described the set-up process to users on the other end via cellular phones, Corsello said.

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