Pacific Endeavor 2016 Integrates Real-World Lessons, New Capability

By Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan
Defense Media Activity, Forward Center Hawaii

The Pacific Endeavor 2016 exercise is in full swing after it began Aug. 22, and military communicators from 22 Indo-Asia Pacific nations, nongovernment organizations and academic advisers have come together to focus on improving humanitarian assistance and disaster response in the region.

Participants of Pacific Endeavor 2016 set up their high frequency radio antennas at Victoria Barracks during a field training exercise. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

Participants of Pacific Endeavor 2016 set up their high frequency radio antennas at Victoria Barracks during a field training exercise. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

Hosted by the Australian Defence Force and U.S. Pacific Command’s Multinational Communication Interoperability Program, this year’s Pacific Endeavor is the culminating event of a year-long planning effort, which took participants and planners to Papua New Guinea, Hawaii and Mongolia. The exercise wraps-up Sept. 2.

Based on recent real-world events, Pacific Endeavor 2016 features a scenario based on a Category 5 typhoon striking Brisbane, which requires participants to set up a Multinational Coordination Center and forward deploy to two other locations in the affected area. Their mission is to validate and document high-frequency voice and data transfer using ordinary field radios. Commonly referred to as Internet protocol over radio frequency, the practice involves transmitting not only voice, but images and e-mail data over the same IPRF signal.

‘No Simulations Here’

“There are no simulations here,” said Scott Griffin, director of Pacom’s multinational communication interoperability program. “We’re actually focusing more on real-world-type communications and real-world-type of events, by deploying them out there, setting up their antennas, setting up their radios and then transmitting back.”

Forward-deployed teams set up the forward operating bases at Damascus Barracks and Victoria Barracks, which are far enough away from the coordination center at Gallipoli Barracks that radio operators can truly test their equipment.

Sponsored by U.S. Pacific Command and hosted by the Australian Defence Force, Pacific Endeavor 2016 is a multinational workshop designed to enhance communication interoperability and expedite humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

Sponsored by U.S. Pacific Command and hosted by the Australian Defence Force, Pacific Endeavor 2016 is a multinational workshop designed to enhance communication interoperability and expedite humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

“It’s really important to test your high frequency [radios] by having a reasonable amount of distance between the two locations to make sure the systems are properly working,” said Australian Army Lt. Col. Michael King, Australian national lead for the multinational communication interoperability program. “Doing it here on the base allows for that, as well as the other locations around Australia, allow for a more realistic training environment to validate the interoperability between our radio systems.”

Most countries have digital radio frequency capabilities, but not all have satellite, which is the reason this exercise is great for interoperability. The challenges exercise participants encounter provide “hands-on” experience of what they might encounter during a real crisis.

Participants of Pacific Endeavor 2016 transmit voice and data communications over radio frequency at Victoria Barracks during a field training exercise. The workshop involved 250 participants from 22 allied and partner nations. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

Participants of Pacific Endeavor 2016 transmit voice and data communications over radio frequency at Victoria Barracks during a field training exercise. The workshop involved 250 participants from 22 allied and partner nations. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

“You’ve always got to prepare for those eventualities, you’ve never going to have everything perfect,” said New Zealand Army Cpl. Daniel Stratton, a radio operator.

With today’s technology, sending images or data over RF signal wouldn’t be needed because of the accessibility of the Internet and Wi-Fi. But, when a disaster or humanitarian crisis occurs, that same signal may become a lifeline.

“If you’re at an outside location, and I need you to send me a picture of the damage in a certain location, I can actually see what it looks like,” said U.S. Army Maj. Mitchell Letter, future operations chief with the 311th Signal Command.

Signalman Madallene Cooper of the Australian Army sets up her high frequency radio antenna at Damascus Barracks during a field training exercise at Exercise Pacific Endeavor 2016. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

Signalman Madallene Cooper of the Australian Army sets up her high frequency radio antenna at Damascus Barracks during a field training exercise at Exercise Pacific Endeavor 2016. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

Disaster Communications

“When a disaster hits, a lot of times everything is wiped out,” said Tom Grant, MCIP technical director. “You might not have any satellite links. Your cell systems might be down, and you might not have access to the Internet. It’s a valuable skill.”

Nongovernment organization representatives like Catherine Graham, vice president for business development with Humanity Road Inc., highlighted how lessons learned from a recent disaster response in Nepal were integrated into this year’s exercise.

Participants of Pacific Endeavor 2016 receive incoming voice transmissions from the field at the exercise’s Multinational Coordination Center. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

Participants of Pacific Endeavor 2016 receive incoming voice transmissions from the field at the exercise’s Multinational Coordination Center. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

“We can improve how [information sharing] happens in the future,” Graham explained. “The success of them doing their radio tests today will help improve the relaying of urgent needs like medicines and urgent needs for information on the condition of roads, so logistics can be improved.”

Raymond Doherty, U.S. Army Pacific’s data subject matter expert for Pacific Endeavor 2016, said that during the exercise, participants are learning real-world lessons about how they can communicate better, even though they aren’t necessarily using the same equipment or speaking the same language all the time.

Vice Adm. David Johnston, Chief of Joint Operations, Australian Navy, addresses participants of Pacific Endeavor 2016. The workshop involved 250 participants from 22 allied and partner nations. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

Vice Adm. David Johnston, Chief of Joint Operations, Australian Navy, addresses participants of Pacific Endeavor 2016. The workshop involved 250 participants from 22 allied and partner nations. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Todd Kabalan

“These are the things that are going to impact future missions,” Doherty said, “because we don’t know where the next disaster is going to be, and we don’t know who’s going to be there first. So these guys can do it together – that’s perfect – that’s what we’re looking for.”

Previously, “we’ve always understood disaster response was water, food and shelter, but nowadays with the usage of the Internet and social media, communications is an everyday life function,” Griffin said. “Before someone is asking for food, shelter, or water, someone is asking, is my loved-one safe?”

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