The basic commands of "shoot, move, and communicate" apply to a squad of riflemen on the ground, a flotilla of warships at sea and an armada of bombers in the air. Of the three, communicate can often be the most decisive in making for success or failure. Or, as a battle-hardened corps commander in the army once said, in colorful if somewhat inelegant language: "If you ain't got communications, you ain't got nuthin."
In the Pacific and Asia, the armed forces of the US are undergoing perhaps the most extensive changes since World War II. As an essential element of that transition, the Army has begun to strengthen its communications apparatus to enable the US Army of the Pacific to be transformed from an administrative headquarters to an expeditionary, warfighting command. Upgrading Army communications has so far revolved around two transfers.
First, a signal brigade has been transferred to Fort Shafter, Hawaii, from Fort Meade, Maryland, to become a signal command responsible for Army communications in Hawaii, Alaska, Okinawa and other areas of Japan and wherever else in the Asian-Pacific region soldiers might be deployed. The 311 Signal Command is led by Major General Donna Dacier.
Dacier was quoted in a unit publication as saying that when her command is fully operational later this year the Army of the Pacific could take on any mission "and get safe, secure and reliable communications from the foxhole back to the garrison."
Second, a signal battalion has been moved from South Korea to Hawaii to handle the communications of combat units that might be dispatched to the far corners of the region that extends across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to the east coast of Africa. The 307th Signal Battalion is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Walrod.
Walrod, whose unit is also expected to be fully operational by the end of this year, was quoted as giving a wry bit of philosophy to his troops about leaving South Korea to become the newest unit in the Army of the Pacific.
"We have no bad habits, no good habits. We have no reputation [so] we must excel," he said.
Moreover, the transfer of this battalion to Hawaii reflects the steady reduction of US forces in South Korea as the South Korean armed forces have become capable of defending their nation from an attack with minimal US help. That reduction has also been motivated by anti-American outbursts suggesting that US forces are no longer welcome in South Korea.
There are other moves in the works. The Air Force is transferring a combat communications squadron from South Korea to Guam, which is being built up as a bastion in the western Pacific.
That communications unit would support bombers and fighters at Anderson Air Force Base if the aircraft were sent into combat.
Likewise, a "Red Horse" engineering unit is being transferred from South Korea to Guam to help construct new facilities to support aerial operations and infrastructure -- meaning roads, water pipelines, sewage lines and electric power plants and grids.
In addition to providing communications, the signal command must maintain the security of its extensive network of message traffic, telecommunications, radio transmissions and video conference calls. A team of about 15 soldiers has mounted a 24-hour watch in an operations security center to detect routine breakdowns and attempts by hackers to get into the network to disrupt it or steal information.