Engineer reachback enables USARPAC DAT mission
August 19, 2010
Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Crista Yazzie,
U.S. Army-Pacific Contingency Command Post Public Affairs
Sgt. 1st Class Colleen Hatfield (left), 565th Eng. Det., FEST-A, USACE, leans into the trunk of a car operating the TCE-D, a device that includes an Internet connection, telephone and video teleconferencing capabilities, while Sgt. 1st Class Terrance McKinney (far right), USARPAC CCP, works with an IKE. Staff Sgt. Andy Anderson and Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Wright, both of CCP, observe.
FORT SHAFTER — When calamity strikes an Asia-Pacific nation, crushing buildings, toppling bridges and making roads impassable, instant communication between emergency response teams is essential. Within hours of a disaster, U.S. Army-Pacific experts from the Contingency Command Post Deployable Assessment Team arrive on the ground with the skills needed to assist host nations and deal with the tragedy.
To exercise the skills needed to maintain readiness, members from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and USARPAC CCP DAT completed engineer reachback training together, here, Aug. 9.
After major disasters, the teams work together, deciding whether a bridge is safe to cross, assessing whether hospitals and other critical structures are intact and coordinating the repair. Situations like this are integral to USACE and the USARPAC CCP DAT missions.
Using only a car battery from a small sedan as a power supply, members of the DAT were trained to make these assessments with technologies that will instantly connect them from anywhere in the Pacific theater to USACE experts at a 24-hour command center.
“This equipment comes in unbelievably handy in a disaster,” said Sgt. 1st Class Colleen Hatfield, noncommissioned officer in charge, 565th Engineer Detachment, Forward Engineer Support Team-Advance, USACE, while showcasing the Telecommunications Engineering Equipment/Deployed, or TCE-D, during the training event.
The TCE-D is portable and ready for use. According to Hatfield, assembly takes no longer than 30 minutes and connects CCP DAT engineers with the USACE reachback operations center. Hatfield operated and demonstrated telephone, internet and video teleconferencing capabilities from the laptops plugged into her vehicle and from an open trunk.
This type of equipment is exactly what DAT, a rapidly deployable humanitarian aid and assistance team of about 20 core experts, can use to be on ground and operational in any part of the Pacific within 48-to-72-hours.
Hatfield was joined by Sgt. 1st Class Terrance McKinney, USARPAC CCP engineer, who presented training on It Knows Everything, or IKE, a hand-held device that provides rapid field data collection.
“In the past, all this information would have been collected by hand, in people’s spiral notebooks, or on some sort of manual checklist,” said Maj. Brian Howell, civil affairs officer, DAT. “The IKE puts the information in a digital format from the start.
“That same information then can be instantly passed out for analysis, projected onto a map (and) can be shared with a reachback support center, subject matter experts and inter-agency partners, because of the fact that it’s in a digital format,” Howell said.
According to team members, a critical part of the DAT mission is being on the ground, solving problems associated with natural or man-made disasters by quickly assessing and assembling survey information for the engineer team.
“With this system, we get information back as quickly as possible, and we are then more effective from the ground and can start implementing recovery operations,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Brendan Kelly, aviations operations officer and DAT chief. “This equipment allows us to do (these operations) expeditiously and accurately, without a lot of human error that we would introduce otherwise.”
As a rapidly deployable humanitarian aid and assistance team, engineer reachback training is just one of many preparations USARPAC CCP’s DAT has planned to enhance readiness. Upcoming events include a rolling-convoy exercise, readiness exercise, static-load training and more.
To learn more about emergency response communication equipment IKE or TCE-D, visit https://uroc.usace.army.mil.