War on Terrorism

Monday, July 25, 2011

Face of Defense: Soldier Maintains Secure Communications

By Army Sgt. Thomas Mort
Task Force Duke

KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, July 25, 2011 – One of the most important aspects of any successful military operation is reliable communications, from the highest commander to the lowest private.

Army Sgt. Billy Hill, a cable installer and maintainer from Amarillo, Texas, assigned to Task Force Duke here with the 1st Infantry Division’s Company C, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, says that’s why his fiber optics team is so important.

Hill, who initially enlisted as an infantryman in 2007, said he thoroughly enjoys his new job near the front lines in Afghanistan.

“I’m very proud that I am able to provide such an important service to our [users], who include other military members as well as civilians,” he said.

Hill’s work consists mostly of planning “fiber runs,” which involves identifying the path a cable will have to take, acquiring dig permits and coordinating for the supplies and machinery required to do the job.

From start to finish, a fiber run can take more than 40 hours of work to complete and cost as much as $80,000, depending on the length, he said.

“Without his expertise, [Task Force] Duke would be forced to hire contractors to complete this arduous task for significantly more money or rely on slower and less reliable communication methods,” said Army Capt. Danny Cornejo, a Chicago native and Hill’s company commander.

Hill said his team works relentlessly, not only running new cable, but also in improving and upgrading existing networks to keep everyone connected.

“The work that Sergeant Hill and his team do every day has a direct impact on [our] daily combat operations,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jaime Robles, the platoon sergeant for Company C’s Headquarters Platoon, and a native of El Paso, Texas. “As a previous infantry soldier, he knows the reliability of having quick and constant communication back to his leaders.”

Fiber optics systems are beginning to replace copper wiring systems across the Afghanistan theater of operations. These systems use light pulses to transmit information instead of electronic pulses used in copper lines. This adds security and allows the passage of information at much higher speeds.

All fiber is buried 12 to 18 inches into the ground, requiring much manual labor and extensive work hours, sometimes well into the night.

“My soldiers and I have accomplished a lot over the past six months,” Hill said. “I expect this hard work and dedication to continue throughout the rest of the deployment. Our soldiers’ work ethic and attitude have been vital to us accomplishing the mission.”

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