Face of Defense: Soldier Maintains Secure Communications

KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, July 25, 2011 — One of the most impor­tant aspects of any suc­cess­ful mil­i­tary oper­a­tion is reli­able com­mu­ni­ca­tions, from the high­est com­man­der to the low­est pri­vate.

Army Sgt. Bil­ly Hill, a cable installer and main­tain­er from Amar­il­lo, Texas, assigned to Task Force Duke here with the 1st Infantry Division’s Com­pa­ny C, Spe­cial Troops Bat­tal­ion, 3rd Brigade Com­bat Team, says that’s why his fiber optics team is so impor­tant.

Hill, who ini­tial­ly enlist­ed as an infantry­man in 2007, said he thor­ough­ly enjoys his new job.

“I’m very proud that I am able to pro­vide such an impor­tant ser­vice to our [users], who include oth­er mil­i­tary mem­bers as well as civil­ians,” he said.

Hill’s work con­sists most­ly of plan­ning “fiber runs,” which involves iden­ti­fy­ing the path a cable will have to take, acquir­ing dig per­mits and coor­di­nat­ing for the sup­plies and machin­ery required to do the job.

From start to fin­ish, a fiber run can take more than 40 hours of work to com­plete and cost as much as $80,000, depend­ing on the length, he said.

“With­out his exper­tise, [Task Force] Duke would be forced to hire con­trac­tors to com­plete this ardu­ous task for sig­nif­i­cant­ly more mon­ey or rely on slow­er and less reli­able com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods,” said Army Capt. Dan­ny Corne­jo, a Chica­go native and Hill’s com­pa­ny com­man­der.

Hill said his team works relent­less­ly, not only run­ning new cable, but also in improv­ing and upgrad­ing exist­ing net­works to keep every­one con­nect­ed.

“The work that Sergeant Hill and his team do every day has a direct impact on [our] dai­ly com­bat oper­a­tions,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jaime Rob­les, the pla­toon sergeant for Com­pa­ny C’s Head­quar­ters Pla­toon, and a native of El Paso, Texas. “As a pre­vi­ous infantry sol­dier, he knows the reli­a­bil­i­ty of hav­ing quick and con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion back to his lead­ers.”

Fiber optics sys­tems are begin­ning to replace cop­per wiring sys­tems across the Afghanistan the­ater of oper­a­tions. These sys­tems use light puls­es to trans­mit infor­ma­tion instead of elec­tron­ic puls­es used in cop­per lines. This adds secu­ri­ty and allows the pas­sage of infor­ma­tion at much high­er speeds.

All fiber is buried 12 to 18 inch­es into the ground, requir­ing much man­u­al labor and exten­sive work hours, some­times well into the night.

“My sol­diers and I have accom­plished a lot over the past six months,” Hill said. “I expect this hard work and ded­i­ca­tion to con­tin­ue through­out the rest of the deploy­ment. Our sol­diers’ work eth­ic and atti­tude have been vital to us accom­plish­ing the mis­sion.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)