By Spc. Brandon Sandefur
1st Infantry Division public affairs
JALALABAD AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Soldiers from the Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division are keeping the brigade connected through a wide variety of communication’s installation and maintenance.
Special Troops Battalion’s “cable dogs,” as they’re commonly referred to, install and maintain the communication wires for the entire brigade.
Unclassified and classified communication lines are set up by the cable dogs, a job which may not carry the prestige of others, but whose importance should not be overlooked.
Spc. Denzel Washington, a Decatur, Ga., native and cable systems installer/maintainer for Special Troops Battalion, explains why he feels his job carries a lot of weight.
“The SIPR (Secret Internet Protocol Router) lines we install are what they hook the secret lines up to. They may use that line to call in a MEDEVAC (medical evacuation),” Washington said. “So I played a part in saving someone’s life, maybe not directly, but I helped.”
Those lines don’t work, however, if they aren’t properly installed. Proper installation is very important for the cable dogs because a shortcut can hamper communication for the entire brigade and create a lot of unnecessary work later.
“The 25L (cable systems operator/maintainer) and the cable he or she runs is the backbone of any network. The setup of most communications assemblies can be conducted in an hour or less,” Staff Sgt. Samuel Adams, a Delta Junction, Ala., native and Special Troops Battalion soldier, said. “The real work in the rest of the signal world is the maintenance and constant troubleshooting of the equipment; such as switches, router, satellites, multiplexers, computers and virus hunting.”
Coordination with all facets of initial construction also is crucial for the cable dogs. They have to work with the construction workers and other communication soldiers to make sure everything is in working order without interfering with anyone else’s work. This includes working around the ceilings and walls and having their cables neatly taped, lined up and out of the way of light fixtures, electrical wiring and heating/air conditioning units.
“Planning is very important. A common problem is that the personnel that occupy a building are not directly involved in planning,” 1st Sgt. Howard Charles, a Fort Hood native, and Special Troops Battalion soldier, said. “Having the occupants of a building show specifically where the cables need to be run to as opposed to coming in after the building is complete and changing the layout would be the desired method for planning.”
The good thing though is that cable dogs normally don’t have to worry about the cables once they’re in place. The job, although tedious at times, has its perks.
“The job itself is very rewarding,” Charles said. “After a team completes the installation of over 500 lines covering 40,000 feet or two lines run above ground for 2 miles, or one fiber optic cable run underground for five miles the team can stand back and marvel at the work that was done.”