GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - When a number of joint multinational communications teams deploy downrange and systems become inoperable, determining solutions is not easy while in combat, separated by miles, language barriers and a lack of working relationships.
Combined Endeavor 2012, or CE12, provides communications professionals the opportunities to work together and develop solutions while building relationships in a controlled environment.
In this environment, while troubleshooting a communications systems problem, the distant end may be right across the parking lot, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Heberlie, CE12 exercise director. People can talk to one another, develop relationships and work to resolve things that are not working within the communications systems.
Among the many nations participating in CE12 is Germany, which leads Mission Group 4, providing the core network for a total of nine nations. Germany and its eight partners are grouped together based upon four separate real world taskings, including deployments to Afghanistan as part of International Security Assistance Force.
“At the moment, we’re in Afghanistan and having issues there, so there’s feedback coming from operations that are going on, saying we need to see whether we can fix the problem with two radios that are both NATO standard but don’t work together in operations.” said Germany’s CE12 Delegation Chief, German Lt. Col. Michael Mecke. “Take German and Danish radios, for instance, because they’re working in operations with us. Now, we want to see if we can make them work in secure mode so that our troops can work together securely without being overheard.”
Therefore, before a unit deploys to an operation, it is very important to know their systems are interoperable with their partners’ systems.
“You’re not going anywhere these days without partners, and they’re not necessarily out of NATO; they’re partners from Partnership for Peace and other nations as well,” Mecke said. “And a crisis situation, such as the earthquake scenario we are playing here in the exercise, could happen anywhere.”
Failure in a CE scenario can lead to success in real-world operations.
“A test that’s done here, that has failed, where we know a system doesn’t work with another one, is not necessarily a bad thing,” Mecke said. “It actually could be a life savior for troops going into an operation where we know beforehand that they can’t work with their radios, so that we can do something about it before they go into operations.”
Serbia’s Lt. Col. Milan Krtinic, Serbian Delegation Chief, said the fact this exercise provides the environment to develop the solutions for the problems and gaps of interoperability in a multinational environment is very important.
“In three years we found solutions for the signal channel radio interoperability gap we had with other nations using the radio stations we had operating in our country,” Krtinic said. “In 2010 we faced an incompatibility problem, pulled out of the exercise, found the solution, and learned which pieces of hardware and equipment we needed. In the 2011 exercise we tested our solution. All the tests that were red in 2010 were green in 2011, meaning compatible.”
Now, Serbia continues to participate and test more systems with other nations in CE12.
Krtinic said this is a unique exercise as each nation shares a lot of good information and experience with each other.
“Here, I can meet lots of other people in information technology specialties from other countries and we can discuss the problems we have, the approaches, the ideas, the policy, which kind of technologies are acceptable for the environment from where we came and what we need to improve,” he said.
In their fifth year participating in CE, Serbia has 21 participants on the main operational base on Grafenwoehr and 24 participants at a remote operational site in Serbia. However, they have no direct connections from the remote site to the main operational base. They have two connections that must physically go through remote sites in Spain and the Slovak Republic.
“We are as successful as our partners are successful,” Krtinic said. “Looking forward, Serbia will always find good friends in Combined Endeavor and will always take efforts to participate.”
CE12 is the world’s largest multinational command, control, communications and computer systems exercise designed to build and enhance communications and network interoperability.