Data network warriors keep CJTF-HOA "online"

23 Nov 2002 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

More and more, computers are the workhorses of today's work force. The military's work force is no exception. Most servicemembers require a computer to perform their jobs.This is true for the men and women of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, and their entire computer network rests in the hands of a group of 12 Marines.So whom do they contact for help when things go wrong? (And they often do go wrong).If they are attached to CJTF - HOA, their best bet might be the "unsung heroes" of the Data Network Section, J-6 Information Systems, according to the section's assistant commander, 1st Lt. Juan A. Orozco."Our mission is to ensure that the networks get set up, servers get built and connectivity to the Internet is up. After that is complete, we have to maintain the networks and do any troubleshooting that is required," said Orozco, who grew up in Laredo, Texas. So what is a network? What is a server? What does it take to build them?"A lot of man hours," he said, stressing the phrase "a lot."Orozco and his team of 12 volunteers first learned they would be attached to CJTF-HOA, formed to aid in the global war against terrorism in northeast Africa, during the first week of October. The task force was scheduled to deploy early the next month.Orozco recounted the month prior to departure, "Initially, we had to plan for three phases. First, we had to set up a network at Camp Lejeune in the LWTC (Littoral Warfare Training Center inside Julian C. Smith Hall). Next, we had to plan for a network on the ship. And last, we planned for a notional land-based network."Because the data network Marines had a lot of work to do and very little time to do it, much of their free-time was taken up by pre-deployment preparations."The time that my Marines could have used to spend with their families before leaving, they spent learning about the different networks and getting the different networks online on the ship," said Orozco. "The ship goes by a different color system than we do, so they had to figure out where the wires were located."Sgt. Barrett Thompson, Data Section help desk noncommissioned officer, commented, "It was really challenging trying to get the computers on line because we had to trace all the different lines to find out what they hooked up to. The network (on ship) was like nothing we've ever dealt with."Another obstacle for the Marines was the considerable amount of people attached to the CJTF-HOA."During a regular field exercise, we would set up about 30 (classified network) and less than 20 (unclassified network) computers," explained Orozco. "For this (CJTF-HOA), on (the classified network) alone, we currently have nearly 300 computers online."With such limited personnel, compared to the total number of people attached to the task force, the accomplishments of Data Section are impressive, according to Orozco."In a significantly short amount of time, the Marines have built 10 servers, created nearly 769 e-mail accounts and are currently supporting three networks consisting of 507 computers. There still is more to come," he said.Once the entire task force boarded the ship, the Marines began answering trouble calls."When we first got on ship, our workload was overwhelming," said Bethesda, Md., native Thompson. "We were constantly getting calls for help."In fact, during the first week and a half of the voyage, the Data Section help desk received more than 415 calls."The Marines worked 14-hour days and sometimes for more than 36 hours with very little sleep. Not one of them has complained or asked for time off," Orozco said."I really don't think I could have asked for a better crew of Marines."