Murphy's Law: Communications Magic


June 28, 2008: The U.S. military is full of small units full of very competent personnel. These outfits often have long and extraordinary histories, and most of them are essential to the efficient functioning of the American armed forces. But you never hear about these organizations. Once such unit is the Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE). This is a unit of fewer than a thousand troops (half of them air force reservists), that provide quick, world-wide communications in whatever new hot spot the U.S. is involved in. JCSE is the communications emergency squad for the Pentagon, and has been at it since 1961. JCSE can be in the air within hours, and have all manner of communications set up (voice, data, Internet, encrypted) within an hour of reaching their destination. JCSE exists to make sure the Pentagon can communicate effectively with U.S. military personnel wherever they may find themselves.

JCSE is an elite unit, which draws its personnel from all services. If you are good enough, the Pentagon will move you from your current job to JCSE. There's quite a lot of competition among communications technicians of all services to get into JCSE.

The main focus of JCSE personnel is the comm gear they can fit, and operate, into a transport aircraft. The current Joint Airborne Command and Control/Command Post ensemble is designed to fit in the cargo bay of a C-130. This setup is called "Jackpot" and it puts whoever has access to it, in contact with just about everyone in the U.S. government (not just the Department of Defense). JCSE also provides support for other branches of government, as needed. JCSE rarely provides that support for more than a month or two, because JCSE is a "first responder" operation, staying only long enough for more normal communications systems to be set up.

JCSE has performed this first responder function in every war the U.S. has been in since the early 1960s.


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