War on Terrorism

Monday, October 01, 2012

DISA Civilian Completes 14-Month Voluntary Deployment in Afghanistan

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Over the decades, DISA has been engaged in every mission the Department has undertaken. These engagements have become increasingly interagency and international, and our partnerships have increased to reflect this.

This is the story of one DISA civilian who recently returned from a voluntary deployment in support of the DISA mission.

Vijay Kumar, an Electronics Engineer assigned to the Operations Directorate, recently returned from a 14-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Kumar's longevity with the agency (He has worked at DISA for 12 years.) and his expertise as a systems engineer at the DISA Cyber Command Field Office — serving as a liaison engineer supporting DISA programs, applications, and tools — made him a match for this deployment.

"I wanted to help the Afghans as much as I could," said Kumar when asked about his reason for volunteering.

Kumar was selected for the assignment under the Ministry of Defense Advisors (MoDA) Program, which is designed to forge long-term relationships that strengthen partner states' security ministries.

While deployed, Kumar's mission was to advise and guide the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) on information technology (IT) and network infrastructure. This included developing an Afghan National Security Forces Network (ANSFNet), which will improve the deployment and management of the communication networks supporting the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, National Directorate of Security, and Presidential Information Coordination Center.

"Our goal was to deliver a simple, sustainable, and robust communications infrastructure," said Kumar. "Afghan National Security Forces Network cornerstone capabilities include reliable, secure, and adequate voice communications for all ANSF personnel and IT connectivity down to the provincial-level. It also provides a core suite of IT services and applications that will enhance operational effectiveness and a sustainable, standardized communications infrastructure to reduce operations and maintenance costs."

Working approximately 90 hours a week — without breaks on weekends or holidays — a typical day for Kumar consisted of formal or informal meetings with his Afghan counterparts, developing action plans and capabilities to manage and maintain the ASNF networks. His daily routine often included late night wrap-up meetings with senior leaders, during which the strategic road map was reviewed, daily successes were noted, and the plan to further Afghan infrastructure development was refined.

As a result of Kumar's deployment, the ANSF were successfully transitioned to manage their own network operations center. In order for the Afghan forces to function independently in the information technology and network operations field, they received a significant amount of training and education from Kumar and his team members.

Kumar and his team also developed and published an ANSFNet Network Expansion Plan that defines desired ANSFNet long-haul IT communication objectives (e.g. bandwidth, uptime, latency, etc.), conforms planned point of presence locations, and identifies additional requirements.

"My deployment not only affected the way I now approach my work at DISA, but changed my view on life altogether," said Kumar. "[My deployment was] not a flashy job. We had to blend in and work effectively behind the scenes to promote Afghan ownership. When making recommendations, we had to be practical and flexible…"

The opportunity provided Kumar with firsthand experience of the hardships deployed military and civilian personnel face, and with it, a greater appreciation for the sacrifices they have made

"I am grateful [to] our founding fathers […] and also to those who sacrificed their lives for this country, both in the military and civilian world," said Kumar.

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