Imagine completely dismantling and re-installing an entire communications system every four to six months, in as little as three days. The tight schedule and continuous rotation is a challenge, to be sure, but it is one the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency is prepared to handle.
When the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 completed a change of command in January, the NCI Agency's Customer Support Unit (CSU) in Northwood did the behind-the-scenes work to power down the communications system on the outgoing vessel, relocate it, install it, conduct all required maintenance and updates, and test it. In as little as three days.
It's a routine the Unit conducts every four-to-six months when the ship that carries the commander rotates out and a new one deploys. The Unit visited 13 different ports in nine different countries last year to support 17 Communication and Information Systems (CIS) operational handovers.
This particular rotation at the Port of Copenhagen included a change of command from Commodore Anders Friis, Danish Royal Navy, to Rear Admiral Edward Cashman, United States Navy.
Each handover presents its own unique challenges, be it the weather delaying ships or space constraints making it difficult to place equipment. In conducting its work, the Unit has learned to adapt.
CSU Northwood includes 18 military or civilian technicians who carry out different aspects of the handovers. They are grouped according to their skill sets and sent out in small four-person teams. In addition to these handovers they also support other tasks at MARCOM Headquarters and across the U.K.
Chris Taylor, Head of the Automated Information System Core for CSU Northwood, led a four-person team in conducting this time-pressed transfer.
"We're typically doing, in effect, a system refresh every four to six months because we're dismantling it, we're powering it down, we're picking it up, we're moving it, we're transferring it and we're powering it up again," Taylor said.
Training between the two staffs took place aboard the Danish Royal Navy's ship, while the Unit conducted maintenance on the equipment.
Using a crane, the Unit successfully transferred the equipment to the United States Navy's ship and installed it, completing the work on time.