NAVCENT MAST Detachments Participate in Patriot 21 Exercise

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  • By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sandi Grimnes Moreno, Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

DOUGLAS, Wisconsin  — Reserve Sailors attached to Navy Central Command Mobile Ashore Support Team (NAVCENT MAST) Detachments A and B from Austin, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, participated in the Patriot 21 exercise at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center on Camp Douglas, June 8-19.

Patriot 21 is an annual exercise where Air and Army National Guard, state and civilian organizations train and prepare for natural disasters. This is the first year the exercise incorporated a unit from the Navy, and NAVCENT MAST’s mission was to ensure the integrity and reliability of command communication networks.  

The 11 Sailors arrived several days in advance of the exercise to set up the communication array inside a Deployable Joint Command and Control (DJC2) Center, working alongside a detachment from the 224th Air National Guard Joint Communications Support Squadron (224th JCSS) from Brunswick, Georgia.

The DJC2 functioned as a mobile command center with linked, self-powered, climate-controlled tents containing satellite communications equipment, voice and data encryption, a video conferencing system, computer workstations, printers, phones and televisions. It arrived pre-packaged in a series of container express (CONEX) boxes ready to assemble on-site.  

“The DJC2 system’s mobility is what makes it a valuable asset to the military,” said Cmdr. Cullin Matthews, commanding officer of Navy Reserve (NR) NAVCENT MAST Det A. “However, the equipment itself is useless unless you have a team of technicians who are experience and knowledgeable in its setup and operation.”

Electronic and information systems technicians assembled the DJC2 and installed and monitoring the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPR), Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPR), as well as the internet and satellite systems, which made it a vital control hub.

“The DJC2 provides a wide range of communication capabilities that are critical to achieving complicated military objectives,” said Matthews, “They provide the mission commander with command and control capabilities in an expeditionary environment.” 

The members of each detachment praised the rare, real-world opportunity to set up, initialize and work on the DJC2 in an exercise scenario.

“You will learn more here, than in, say, Bahrain, because the DJC2 is already set up there,” said Electronic Technician 2nd Class Marshall Hundemer, from Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Here, you are setting the system up from scratch.”

His Shipmates agreed.

“In the five years I have been in the Navy Reserve, this is the coolest thing I have done on Annual Training,” said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Christopher Ngo, from Fort Worth, Texas. 

“This is the best opportunity for training we have had in terms of having limited amounts of DJC2 kits throughout the world,” said Lt. Cmdr. David Steinberger, commanding officer of NR NAVCENT MAST Det B.  “This is really the best way to get these guys involved and able to see what it is we would do on a mobilization. “We are also enhancing our joint warfighting functionality to include effective communications and logistics inherent in coordinating with a unit from another branch of service.”

Matthews said the joint aspect of Patriot 21 added a unique layer of complexity to the already technically challenging evolution of setting up and operating a fully functioning, expeditionary watch floor. 

“The opportunity to work alongside Soldiers and airmen in troubleshooting and operating their equipment and networks was a unique experience for our Sailors,” said Matthews. 

Once fully operational, the DJC2 was used in the exercise by the Wisconsin Emergency Management team under continual monitoring by the NAVCENT MAST Dets and the Air National Guard unit.

“There are limited DJC2 systems around the world shared by the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps,” said Matthews. “Exercises like Patriot 21 enhance the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Fifth Fleet (CUSNC/C5F) Reserve force’s warfighting readiness by ensuring we’re able to provide remote command and control capabilities in a real-world environment.”

The actual exercise ran from June 14 through 17, and while successful overall, there were plenty of opportunities for the team to trouble shoot and practice real-world problem solving skills. 

“We experienced some hiccups but the real world is going to be actively throwing hiccups at us and trying to disrupt our ability to do it, too,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Beaux Davis, from NAVCENT MAT Det B, “.“Being able to accomplish training in a quasi-controlled environment establishes that confidence that we can execute it in the future in a real-world scenario.”  

NAVCENT MAST Detachments provide contingency engineering, engineering logistics, base development, environmental engineering and infrastructure support for the full range of contingency environments. They provide and protect command, control, communications, computers and intelligence system operations within the U.S. Central Command area of operation.