In the military, we have a phrase: “Shoot, Move, and Communicate”. However, it should really be “Communicate, Move, then Shoot”… because you can’t do either two without communicating first. However, I’m sure the first adage just sounds cooler… What’s that mean? In any great organization, one of the essential components of any plan is, “How are we going to talk to each other”, whether that be by a simple phone on the desk or a hi-tech secure data/voice/video capability. In order to have proper Command and Control (C2) over the battlefield and mass, organize, and develop precision maneuver, a plan has to be created that’s efficient, effective, and reliable… most importantly, it has to be REDUNDANT!
I guess I need to explain myself… In a prior life, I was a Communications Officer for a Special Operations Unit. PACE is an acronym we use for planning the communications section of a mission. I’ll break it down:
P – Primary
A – Alternate
C – Contingency
E – Emergency
When discussing the military, we believe in redundancy and redundancy in order to be redundant… Redundant enough for you? Any and all communications person worth their salt needs to be able to pick up that hand mic and say “Hey You, It’s Me” at any time during a mission. In an ideal situation, our PACE is defined by 4 separate network entities; each standing on their own. We know that in real world instances, this usually isn’t the case, so we do what we can and pray that the “Commo Gods” are smiling on us on any given mission. In one instance, while deployed in Afghanistan, we had one of our SF Detachments in contact in a particular Province. The satellite we were relaying information with back and forth “shut down” (went off-line) for some reason, and we were literally “blind” with nothing but static with what seemed like an eternity. In those intense several minutes, that team was cut off from their support, and that communications Sergeant had to concentrate on “getting Comms up” verses focusing on the firefight. We were able to contact the right sources and bring that Satellite back on-line in time to support that element. In other words, real life instances usually trump even the most well thought out PACE plans, so we have to be diligent and resilient enough to overcome those obstacles and react accordingly.
Let’s look at PACE during a disaster. I was also deployed in support of Hurricane Katrina; not as a soldier, but as a Forensic Scientist… I know, crazy huh… I worked for the Mississippi Crime Lab and linked up with the state Medical Examiner. We assisted the Harrison County Coroner’s Office in Recovery Efforts throughout the hardest hit area: The Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Communication is also extremely essential in disastrous natural occurrences to be able to do the same thing as with the Military: Have proper Command and Control (C2) over the “battlefield” in order to mass, organize, and develop precision maneuver. In this instance to bring Aid and Service to those affected by the disaster. Immediate relief is so important, and many of these hard hit areas have NO cell service, which is what we discovered quickly. How were we going to communicate? Well, one way is that we coordinated efforts with the MS National Guard and used their communication assets to better assist our efforts. There were many short wave radios as well that we put to good use internally.
One great asset that was presented was Cisco’s own Tactical Operations team. “The Cisco Tactical Operations (TacOps) team can quickly deploy to support the acute phase of emergencies that affect communications. The team establishes IP-based communications for: First responders, Government agencies, Relief organizations, and others who require mission-critical connectivity to respond effectively.
TacOps manages the Cisco Disaster Incident Response Team (DIRT) and provides on-the-ground support using: Rapidly deployable satellite-based networks Advanced Cisco technology Cisco Network Emergency Response Vehicles (NERVs). TacOps also supports innovation and research in emergency communications by working with the global disaster technology community to develop standards and long-term solutions leveraging the latest network-centric technologies and applications.” –
Reconstruction of critical infrastructure in the course of a disaster is time sensitive. There are many victims that need aid/rescue and the teams discovering these victims need to be able to communicate every step of the way. Also, it’s extremely important that law enforcement agencies involved be able to keep order and peace; to be able to accomplish this mission, communication once again is the key.
To sum it up; regardless of peace time, war time, or in the time of natural disaster, the key component is and always will be communication. I understand that many organizations do not have a full 4 step PACE, but rather a primary and secondary. That’s part of what we do here at Cisco is come up with ways to help keep the P.A.C.E.
Very Proud Veteran and Employee of Cisco Systems
-Marcos “Mark” Rogers, Specialist, Global Government Marketing