Technology has dramatically changed the way soldiers get information on the battlefield.
About 140 years ago, messages were sent using wig-wag flags, and only a decade ago, radios ruled the communications battlefield.
"In Desert Storm, voice and almost no data" was the chosen mode of communication, according to Col. Daniel M. Gerstein, commander of the 93rd Signal Brigade.
"In Desert Storm, there was one satellite division I was in, there were six voice circuits and only one data pipe," he said.
Today, data transfer is preferred over voice communication, he said.
"In Afghanistan and Bosnia, they began to care more about data," he said.
The 93rd Signal Brigade is comprised of several units. One, the 63rd Signal Battalion, had more than 400 soldiers deployed to Kuwait two weeks ago. The 235th Signal Company recently received deployment orders and is scheduled to leave to an undisclosed location in the near future.
The 93rd Signal Brigade has several missions. Small groups of its soldiers often are sent to Latin America, where they assist with setting up communication links in support of humanitarian or anti-drug missions.
In the possible war with Iraq, the unit most likely will provide communication capabilities to senior commanders, Col. Gerstein said.
Members of the unit are required to be able to set up and have their communications equipment (radios, phones and computers) operational within three hours of arriving in an area.
Not all of the 63rd Battalion's soldiers deployed to the Middle East work with communications equipment.
"They have to be very self-sufficient," Col. Gerstein said. "They will have mess halls and fuel trucks. They have to staff that sort of thing."
The 235th Signal Co., with its satellite capabilities, provides an extended range of operation. Only part of that unit will be deployed.
Other members will remain at Fort Gordon to fulfill another part of the brigade's mission - homeland defense.
In 2002, soldiers provided security at the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and at the Pentagon restoration. Soldiers have been involved in several consequence-management exercises to hone their skills.
Soldiers also are responsible for securing government computer systems from cyberterrorism.
"We have a 3,000-mile screwdriver," said Col. Gerstein. "We defend computer networks. If we see somebody trying to manipulate things or break in, we can turn out the router and deny access. We can shut you down."
Before the year is out, Col. Gerstein expects to send other soldiers to various points in the world.
The brigade has soldiers in Kosovo, Macedonia and Qatar, and there likely will be more missions to Latin America.
During the next six months, Col. Gerstein will make trips to Uruguay, Paraguay, Panama, Bolivia and El Salvador.
This summer, another signal unit will provide additional support to the 93rd. The 56th Signal Battalion will be moving to Fort Gordon from Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico.
Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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