When the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games was held in Chicago in early July, there were many organizations and processes put in place to make it a successful event, but when last minute problems arose with secure communications, the Information Technology (IT) department at Naval Station Great Lakes (NSGL) stepped up to the plate.
The IT department was informed about three weeks in advance that there was not a solid plan for secure communications between all the sport venues, the Joint Operations Center (JOC) and Navy officials across the region.
NSGL Program Director for IT, Robert Stachura, was able to bring together technicians from the base, Lake County communication technicians and people from each venue to make this aspect of the games a success.
“One of the things I’d like to highlight is interoperability. Not only on a short notice did we establish an entire communications plan and procure more than $1 million worth of equipment, we were able to inter-operate it between our existing Enterprise Land Mobile Radio (ELMR) system,” said Stachura. “With no resources available to us other than the good will and hard work of people like Kent McKenzie and Lake County Emergency Management Agency, Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Jeff Lilly being able to create a communications plan for us and securing the state of Illinois talk groups and channels that we could use. It all just came together like clockwork, it was incredible.”
NSGL Information Assurance Manager Detron Phillips and Information Technology Specialist (Networking) Ken Hogbin were able to use the statewide public safety radio network, STARCOM21, in conjunction with the Navy’s ELMR, and other radio equipment to to allow secure communications throughout the venues, JOC and the Regional Operations Center in Norfolk, Va. They hooked up more than 100 pounds of gear, including installing lines to radio equipment and antennas to various venues over a period of about a week to make all the hand-held radios work together.
“The good thing, in my opinion, is that we wouldn’t have known anything about STARCOM21. If our CO hadn’t gotten us together with Lake County, about two years ago, to discuss how the Navy could inter-operate with them,” said Hogbin. “At the start of this it seemed to be very hectic and very time consuming, but the end result was amazing. Because of what we did, and what we were able to accomplish in a short amount of time, I don’t think we could have done it without Lake County’s assistance.”
Stachura had this to say about his employees, “They definitely went above and beyond. This team here and working with the team from Lake County we were able to pull of something truly incredible.”