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10 1 2019

Connecting the dots: Preparing a NATO mission

Each time NATO forces deploy, countless activities take place behind the scenes to get them ready. The NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency is part of that flurry of action.

The Network Services and IT Infrastructure (NSII) Service Line, part of the Agency, delivers critical technology to those forces as they embark on a new mission. The NSII's Deployable Communications and Information Systems (DCIS) Operations team knows first-hand what it is like to deliver such complex technology on a short timeline.

At its July 2018 Summit in Brussels, NATO officially launched a new mission in Iraq. NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) is a non-combat training and capacity-building mission.

The Agency-wide project team led by NSII Service Line successfully provided – ahead of the January 2019 deadline – the technology needed to connect the troops back to the headquarters. NSII Senior Project Manager Kayhan Vardareri, the Project Manager for the effort, was responsible for planning all of the project's activities, from the design phase to the activation in theatre.

The team had only four to five months to get everything up and running.

"To me it's a really short amount of time to build and configure that many systems and services. Great teamwork from many different teams helped us deliver," Vardareri said.

Design and Planning

During the design and planning phase, DCIS Service Manager Robert Webster needed to determine what technology would work best for each location. To do that, Webster travelled with a small team to Iraq.

The trip helped them factor in everything from the weather, to the available power supply.

Iraq's hot temperatures made for a particular challenge and necessitated air conditioning. When Webster travelled to Iraq, the temperature hit 53 degrees Celsius.

The Agency provided communications for four different sites in the form of what are called points of presence. Based on the users at any given site the Agency has major, medium and minor points of presence that it can deploy to deliver the necessary level of service.

Connecting the dots: Preparing a NATO mission

Deploying and Supporting

An initial set of equipment arrived in Iraq before Christmas, and the final setup was deployed shortly after that. Webster deployed to Iraq with NATO CIS Group members in January to support the mission.

"I volunteered and said, 'I want to go,' because having been part of the project from the beginning, I want to see it through to the end," Webster said. "For me it was a great incentive to be part of that."

Webster served as the head of the communications centre while there.

"Normally my job is managing budgets and doing stuff like that," Webster said. "To actually be involved in a project where you're going to see it be deployed, and it provide a service for a customer in an operational field, was a great thing."

When you go to an operation, things that you do have immediate effect, Webster said.

As an example, Webster told a story about a NATO Team losing its communications.

"The guy phones me at 8 o'clock in the evening, he said 'I've lost my communications. I have no way of sending out the information required for tomorrow.'" Webster said.

Webster called an engineer to get the problem fixed.

"Doing a spreadsheet at work to order equipment doesn't fill me with the same enthusiasm as getting the comms back for operations," Webster said.

Strong teamwork in the Agency made for a successful contribution to the mission, Vardareri said.

"Everyone is committed to provide the systems, the services, needed in the theatre because we have people out there who need our systems and services to achieve their mission," Vardareri said. "It's a big contribution to a greater NATO mission."

About the Network Services and IT Infrastructure Service Line: The NSII mission enables secure and resilient data, voice and video communication services worldwide. It supports deployed operations and exercises for NATO Joint Forces, and political consultations between NATO Headquarters and Nations. The NSII Service Line is one of the largest units in the NCI Agency by personnel (more than 300 employees), portfolio (300 million EUR a year) and geographical footprint (17 locations).

Interested in working for the NSII Service Line? Explore our vacancies.