Monday, July 27, 2009

Communications in Afghanistan

Wired and Michael Yon recently wrote about the status of communications for the troops in Afghanistan, sometimes known as "comfort calls."

Wired pointed out that for some of the troops, limited access to phone and email back home had some positive effects:

Corporal Max Nellis, an Army military policeman stationed here, said that, speaking for himself, he didn’t mind working at such an austere location.

“This is great,” he said. “No internet, no [cell] phones, one call a week to my wife. It’s not sarcasm: It makes it a lot easier for me to focus on my job.”

Satellite phones and high bandwidth satellite-based internet are an indispensable asset for providing reach back communications to military families in an austere environment. But it comes at a steep price. Michael Yon goes into more detail:

Without such a terminal, large numbers of Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors will be without regular communications for much or most of their time in Afghanistan. The infrastructure is Spartan to non-existent. Life here is tougher than it was in Iraq, and the fighting will be tougher still. Yes, there are the gigantic bases—as in Iraq—where everything is available, but little of the war is being fought from the larger bases.

Extended battlefield journalism from Afghanistan is relatively non-existent. Broadly speaking, folks at home will not know how their loved ones are doing unless they can communicate directly. To learn more about the effort to send satellite communications gear to troops downrange, please see Operation AC.

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