Sgt. Eric Provost
4th Brigade Combat Team Journalist
KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Army’s new communication suite, Capability Set-13, has been generating a lot of buzz around the military.
In May, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), Task Force Patriot, became the first unit to integrate the new system into operations during its rotation at Fort Polk’s Joint Readiness Training Center before deploying with the system in July.
Since the implementation of CS-13, a lot of focus has been placed on the capabilities it grants individual Soldiers on the ground. Because of this, a smart phone called End User Device, which serves as the Army’s new nucleus for Soldier-to-Soldier communications in the field, has become the CS-13’s unofficial symbol to many Soldiers.
However, CS-13 is far more than just what the EUDs can do, according to members of 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th BCT, who are deployed to Forward Operating Base Tagab in Kapisa Province.
“It gives us all kinds of mission command capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Paul Cunningham, 2-4 Infan-try commander.
“That’s the most important thing it gives us, especially with our mission here.”
The battalion’s mission is to advise and assist the 3rd Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps in Kapisa.
Unlike many other units in Afghanistan that work in close proximity to their Afghan counterparts, 2-4 Infantry Soldiers must make trips that take them away from the communication infrastructure they have at their FOB headquarters for days on end. That’s when CS-13 becomes extremely useful.
The EUDs are not where the unit has gotten the most use out of the system. For them, the Point of Presence trucks and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles outfitted with CS-13 capabilities is where they get the most out of the suite.
“If we’re out doing advising operations, (the POP) gives me and the advisory team the same mission command capabilities that we’d have if we were sitting at FOB Tagab,” Cunningham explained.
The POP trucks offer a host of communications assets, including the ability to connect to military phone lines, which lets Soldiers connect to any phone they would be able to call from their office.
For the first time, Soldiers also can check their military email accounts remotely, ensuring that, no matter how long the mission, they will still have constant access to electronic communications.
In addition, it gives commanders the ability to continue to lead and offer guidance to their subordinates even in the midst of another mission on the opposite side of the province.
“We went on a mission once (where) we were only supposed to be there for three days, but we wound up having to stay for nine,” Cunningham said. “Not only was I able to check and respond to emails while we were driving, but we were able to keep the same level of staff productivity throughout those nine days because we had all of our systems.”
For those who have learned to use the powerful and versatile suite, CS-13 is worth the time it takes to familiarize oneself with it to integrate the system on missions.
“If you actually take the time to learn it, it’s worth it,” said Spc. Dustin Murray, a communications Soldier with 2-4 Infantry. “Things always come up in the common world, but once you learn how to fix it, you’re good. It works great.”
Murray attended the 13-week familiarization course at Fort Polk. The class offered a complete over-view of the system and hands-on experience with each of its components.
It culminated with a week of practical exercises and trouble-shooting.
Being part of the first unit to use CS-13 in a combat zone, a major portion of 2-4 Infantry’s implementation of the suite is to diagnose any potential downfalls of the capability set and see what can be improved.
“There (are) a lot of little shortcomings, but any new system’s going to have bugs,” Cunningham said. “Our communications guys have figured out workarounds to a lot of the bugs we’ve encountered that no one even knew existed and wouldn’t have known until you get the system out in the field.”
Soldier Network Extension trucks, similar to the POPs, but offering a slightly milder connectivity advantage, are on a shortlist of CS-13 aspects some of the Soldiers believe can be improved on.
“The SNE is a good system,” Murray said. “It’s almost the same system as a POP, but it’s just slower than what the POPs offer. It can have as much capability, but it just works on a slower program.”
For the rest of their deployment, 2-4 Infantry will continue to monitor the suite and offer suggestions for improvements, which will ensure units that follow receive even better capabilities.
CS-13 as it stands now, however, has already offered the battalion a much-appreciated edge on the battlefield.
“I think there (are) lots of little improvements that can be made, as with all technology like this, which I have no doubt will happen,” Cunningham said. “But in my mind, it’s definitely been a value-added to our battalion, and it’s helped us accomplish our mission.
“I’m a believer in CS-13.”