War Is Fought in Chat Rooms
"War is fought on chat," Col. Paul Miller, USMC, assistant chief of staff, G-6 for the I Marine Expeditionary Force, told the crowd at TechNet Land Forces Southwest 2012 in Tucson, Arizona. Having served in Afghanistan, Col. Miller gave a first-hand account of the networking operations on the battlefield.
Medical evacuations, calls for fire, situation reports and other warfighter tasks are all done on chat, he reported. Command operations centers monitor the chat capabilities to maintain situational awareness. Troop contact reports in the warfighter chat rooms are often the first indicator of battlefield activity. "We can get a medevac bird on deck real quick or get fires dropped right where you need them ... to take care of the bad guys," Col. Miller said.
He outlined some of the challenges the Marines face as they try to move back to a lighter, more flexible force. Armored vehicles present both pros and cons-they are needed to protect troops, but they are also too heavy.
The Marines also need to develop a networking on-the-move capability and are working toward that goal with Point-of-Presence Vehicles (POP-V). "We tested it last fall. We're going to run some more tests coming up, I believe, next month," Col. Miller said.
He described his experience in helping to field a mobile platform to dismounted Marines in the form of the Harris 117G radio and hardened laptops. "We really didn't have a [concept of operations] for it. I told my guys to just give these things out to the Marines. That's when they started putting them up on the blimps, the aerostats. The vendor for the aerostat was a little upset because they were putting radios on it. It was a payload issue. But I got 30 kilometers extension on my network, so for me, that was a win."