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Battlefield satellite phone calls are routed at MacDill

by 2nd Lt. Erin Dorrance
Chief of Internal Information

U.S. military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan reach for their satellite phones when they want clear, secure and fast communications and more often than not, the operator who patches through their calls is sitting in a building behind the MacDill Base Exchange.

The one-stop-shop Regional Satcom Support Center at MacDill processes requests for satellite phone time and schedules the required bandwidth to commanders all over the globe.

The joint RSSC at MacDill is one of three regional support centers including one in Germany and Hawaii, which are headquartered at the Global Satcom Support Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

By using satellites located on the equator line, 23,000 miles above Earth, the RSSC receives satellite access requests used to grant satellite phone time in three frequencies, ultra high, super high and extremely high.

The RSSC's main users are Special Operations Command, Central Command, Southern Command and Joint Forces Command. Since MacDill has two of the four biggest users within an arm's reach, and Southern Command is only a couple hundred miles away, it only made sense to have a RSCC at MacDill, said Tech. Sgt. Jay Steele, EHF chief of Central Command operations, who has been with the RSSC for three and a half years. The RSSC also works closely with the Joint Communication Support Element, located at MacDill. In July 2002, the RSSC moved from downtown Tampa to its new facility at MacDill, said Sergeant Steele.

"It just made sense for us to be close to our users," he said. "Plus, the facility at MacDill gives us a lot more space."After the move to MacDill, the RSSC has found itself busier than ever.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Greg Denton, noncommissioned officer in charge of the RSSC, said the satellite phone technology was not used as much during Operation Desert Storm but during Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the satellite phones have been in high demand.

"It is unbelievable how fast and big satellite communications is growing," said Sergeant Denton. "Even the career field is growing quickly because of the technology's popularity."

Due to the prominent use of satellite communications and the large amounts of bandwidth needed to use this type of communications, the RSSC carefully plans satellite phone time, said David Miller, chief of UHF cell. Exercises help the RSSC ensure that its planning is efficient and that military commanders have the time and bandwidth they require for satellite phone calls.

Although the RSSC starts planning six to eight months in advance of a war, it is very flexible and ready to deal with rapid changes.




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