The US Army will provide Wi-Fi in West Africa for the fight against Ebola


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The Defense Department has started to beef up systems needed to support troops and nongovernmental organizations engaged in the Ebola fight in West Africa, including email, video and satellite systems.

The Defense Information Systems Agency last week turned on a node of the Blue Force Tracking System over West Africa, which transmits feeds from GPS receivers over satellites to a central node to pinpoint locations. This will enable real-time messaging and location-status information for vehicles and individuals.

The system, part of the Army’s Warrior Information-Tactical battlefield network—or WIN-T network—will be used by the 4,000 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division when they deploy to West Africa this month, Lt. Col. Joel Babbitt, the WIN-T product manager, told Defense One.

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The networks the Army is setting up in West Africa will support both military users and NGOs, such as Doctors without Borders, Babbit said.

WIN-T will provide the NGOs “with the communications reach-back that will allow them to coordinate their efforts as an entire task force,” he said. “It will make our response to the Ebola crisis much more coordinated and much more effective.”

The Army plans to deploy WIN-T in packages to West Africa, including network nodes and command post systems. The Army also accelerated efforts to upgrade units’ modems, allowing for higher bandwidth to support the anticipated demand for medical information and other data.

The modem upgrade, like the drive to expand commercial Internet capability for expeditionary signal battalions, was already underway prior to Operation United Assistance, so the Army was poised for rapid response. ”It highlights the importance of continually modernizing the network so that you can provide these sorts of capabilities when required,” Babbitt said.