September 12, 2005
Only on 12…about 100 members of Fort Gordon’s 93rd Signal Brigade are across the Gulf Coast restoring communications. News 12 explains how they’re making the entire military operation on the Gulf work.
Right next to a tree ripped out of the ground by Hurricane Katrina’s force, one of the most important parts of the Gulf Coast restoration is underway.
“The mission that we have here is to support the Joint Task Force Katrina,” said Captain Pete Peterson.
Fort Gordon’s 67th Signal Battalion was called to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, hours after Katrina hit to restore communications for FEMA and the military.
The quick call to action means one of these soldiers is missing his vacation to the Jersey Shore and another cancelled his trip home to Oklahoma. But their expertise was needed to restore phone lines, Internet and teleconferencing in days.
Captain Pete Peterson and First Sergeant Donald Wilson run Fort Gordon’s operation at Camp Shelby. In the last week, they’ve each slept about eight hours altogether. There’s lots of work to do because communication is one of the first things needed to coordinate the entire restoration of the Gulf Coast.
“We’ve been able to help command and control so that can get organized, so when the units are coming here we can control exactly where they’re going,” Wilson said.
While the logistics of this operations are worked out inside, the engineering side is right out here. Members of the 235th Signal Company work shifts around the clock to make sure these satellites are always working.
Specialist Bryan Vicente makes sure the satellite link stays clear.
“We take all the data that’s coming in from the inside and we just put it over the satellite, make sure that it’s a clear link that we have no errors, nothing like that,” Vicente said.
Specialist Vicente spent a year setting up the same kind of communications in Iraq with some of this same equipment. Vicente says when he arrived at Camp Shelby communications were almost as bad as the Middle East.
“There was nothing here. They didn’t have DSN. They didn’t have commercial phones. They didn’t have power. They didn’t have anything,” Vicente said.
Now phone lines and the Internet are at full speed. A few days ago President Bush used Fort Gordon’s satellite to hold a teleconference at Camp Shelby. But the work’s not done yet. The 67th has extra equipment here. They expect to set up satellites in Gulfport or Baton Rouge.
“It looks like we’re gonna be here for awhile, but I’m not sure,” Vicente said.
Not sure, but ready and working hard to be the voice of restoration.