Newsletters - Volume 53
TOTAL RAM 2009 or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Plan
Article written by Lieutenant Tim Fournier, B Tp Comd, 742 Sig Sqn
Feb 2009, Edmonton: The plan was a simple one: bring network connectivity to allow command and control of a brigade-level exercise. This is not something new, in fact something that has become expected. Unfortunately, like many well-laid military plans, it did not survive contact with the enemy completely intact.
Ex TOTAL RAM 2009 was to take place in Suffield, Alberta; a location chosen due to its ability to support brigade live fire for armoured and artillery elements in manoeuvre warfare training. The exercise was the first Brigade level training for the 3-09 deployment, and it was essential that training be maximized during the brief window provided. The base itself only had the infrastructure to support the four hundred-or-so DWAN connections for its own permanent staff. Due to 5-11 deployment, a significant amount of members from 1 CMBG HQ & Sigs were already overseas. It was for this reason that 742 Signal Squadron – a garrison support unit – was called on to supply further assistance to the training exercise. Specifically, the tasking was to bring the network support for DWAN, VoIP, CSNI, GPNet and to allow TacNet to be relayed via the same backbone.
A work team from 742 Sig Sqn was sent out mid-February to begin laying the groundwork for this training requirement, to have networks ready by late March to begin the exercise. Now, a major issue was realizing the fact that CFB Suffield has the infrastructure to barely support the 200-or-so network devices used on its base. It certainly did not have the capacity to allow another three thousand users to be supported to levels that are conducive to ongoing sanity (which was all travelling through an 8 MBit pipe anyway…). So, work began with massive equipment loans to the main server room, along with several racks loaded on the one hill in the training area. From here, the proposed solution was to push the connectivity through HCLOS to each unit’s location with all five networks transmitted through a single signal.
After several setbacks, not the least of which included a HLVW crushing fibre and a rabbit chewing through a separate line, the solution was provided. Truly an example of the teamwork prevalent in the Signals community, this was a combined effort of 1 CMBG HQ & Sigs, DLCSPM and 742 Signal Squadron, each providing a unique skill-set without which training would have been severely hampered.
It was the knowledge obtained by working regularly to support garrison services that provided the technical skill to realize this solution. On job training or courses would not have create a deep enough skill-set as the massive body of knowledge required is tempered by network outage solutions and reacting to complex problems. It appears clear that the manning of Signals members within such organizations is absolutely essential to force generation, and must be kept as a constant priority in this further digitalizing communications infrastructure.