JMAST support unit in Italy ready for rapid deployment
LAGO PATRIA, Italy — A six-hour recall means when the call comes, troops have to be ready to deploy in that length of time. Even if they’re dressed like Ronald McDonald.
Chief Petty Officer Mike Kendall of the Joint Mobile Ashore Support Terminal Europe said that such a call came last Halloween, and base security had to check outgoing traffic for a sailor dressed as the tall clown with big red hair to make sure he got the word. The sailor was found — in a less conspicuous outfit — and deployed on time.
Kendall is officer in charge of the Sigonella, Sicily-based unit, which provides mobile C4I support — command, control, communications, computers and intelligence — for military forces throughout Europe, Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.
And because real-world events happen even on Halloween, members of the unit must be prepared to deploy some or all of its personnel and $4.5 million JMAST system on short notice.
Though the unit is entirely Navy, members usually work with all the services in joint operations or exercises. They’re able to provide field troops or commanders with radios, classified and unclassified computer networks, DSN phones and secure video teleconferencing.
They can also deploy on submarines and ships or even with different countries’ militaries. In Bulgaria, where they’ll be next month for a joint-service, multination exercise, they’ll be working with the South African military.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Kendall said. “People call London with a request and they call me and ask if we can do it.”
So far they’ve been meeting those demands, but it keeps them away from home a lot.
The entire unit of less than two dozen people, along with sailors from the Sigonella-based Tactical Communications Support Unit, can deploy within 24 hours and certain smaller teams within six hours.
In the past year, the unit deployed a two-man team that went ashore with Marines in Monrovia, Liberia, and sent its entire JMAST system to a multination exercise in the Republic of Georgia.
“During Operation Iraqi Freedom, our people manned a C4I help center in Souda Bay, Crete,” Kendall added. “We had people in Central Command ... actual warfighters in the theater of conflict.”
They were even called to provide communications to the Iraqi National Congress.
“We are mobile,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Traupman, who’s been with the unit for almost three years. “I’ve been to Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Germany, Poland and Spain. I was looking forward to deploying a lot.”
In the past few weeks the unit successfully set up near Naples to test if it could deploy using half its normal cargo space while providing the same capabilities.
“We usually have three or four things going on at a time,” Kendall said. “While we’re here ... we’re working a joint task force somewhere else.”
One of the unit’s sailors is in Bulgaria surveying the next joint exercise site, and Kendall was in London when the unit arrived in Lago Patria.
The all-enlisted team is mainly made up of computer specialists, electronics technicians and operations specialists.
“It’s different to know that an operations specialist planned the project and logistics to get us out here,” said Traupman. An operations specialist by trade, he’s used to working on a ship’s combat and radar systems.
“We’re everything,” he said about members in the unit. “It’s E-6 and below who run it.”
Kendall is the only member in the unit above E-6.
“If you’re put in charge of something here, you’re really responsible,” Traupman said. “We have become a team. When it comes to something like this, you have to come together as a team.”
“If you’re not, the mission’s not going to happen. If you’re not set up in one day, you’re sleeping out in the cold.”
Team finds success getting lighter, more mobile
LAGO PATRIA, Italy — The Sigonella, Sicily-based Joint Mobile Ashore Support Terminal Europe has provided communications for military units in such diverse locations as Liberia and the Republic of Georgia.
But its latest deployment — to Lago Patria, a few miles northwest of Naples — may have been one of its most ambitious.
The unit deployed to the relatively safe satellite communications facility for the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Europe Central. The unit, and the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, wanted to see just how mobile it really could be.
Instead of deploying in its usual two C-130 cargo aircraft, unit members planned, packed and even prayed, then tailored their equipment to fit into a single C-130.
“We succeeded,” said Chief Petty Officer Mike Kendall, the unit’s senior member. “We got a lot of bang for the buck.”
The unit left behind its truck and forklift and replaced some of its heavier communications gear with portable versions. It also took three tents instead of the normal five, and used the video teleconference room as their living area.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Traupman planned the deployment, scheduling everything from the airlift to fuel deliveries.
Detachment personnel then packed the gear in plastic flight containers and loaded the C-130 for the flight to Naples. The unit arrived Jan. 26 and will return to Sigonella next week.
Kendall said that the Lago Patria site was chosen for a number of reasons. “It’s far enough away [from Sicily] to do the flight, but not too far to get expensive,” he said. “We [also] want to expose JMAST to 6th Fleet and expose it to the STEP site here.”
JMAST deployed seven unit members, along with three from the Tactical Communications Support Unit, two from the Navy Center for Tactical Systems Interoperability Detachment 4, and an Air Force communications specialist.
Because the JMAST can deploy with units from any service, Kendall said the unit tries to get members from those various units for short periods.
“We try to pull them in on deployments,” Kendall said. “We share how they do business and how we do business.”
Despite the success of this deployment, unit personnel are trying to streamline even more.
The unit requires daily fuel deliveries for its generators, and Kendall said it has a fuel bladder coming from the United States. This will allow the unit to operate for at least a week without refueling, as it can expect to deploy in areas with a limited quantity of fuel or fuel of poor quality.
For some of its smaller-scale deployments of only a few people, Kendall foresees reducing gear to that which can be carried as excess baggage on an airliner or in helicopters.