COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — As part of the total government response to the new coronavirus pandemic, the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy deployed in support of the nation’s efforts, and U.S. Army Space Soldiers were there to help.
Soldiers and civilians from the Regional Satellite Communications Support Center-Pacific, or RSSC-PAC, an element of the U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, responded this week to an urgent request from the Mercy and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command for additional bandwidth to enable telemedicine and other online capabilities aboard the ship.
In the course of conducting normal operations, wideband military satellite communication users like the Mercy require an operational data rate consistent with the size and mission of the vessel.
“Applications like telemedicine require a surge in bandwidth to handle the increased demand on the Mercy’s telecommunications infrastructure,” said Robert Driskell, wideband cell chief, RSSC-PAC. “In this case we doubled the operational data rate increasing the Mercy’s ability to satisfy patient needs by reducing network latency and increasing upload and download speeds.”
RSSC-PAC quickly moved and replanned eight existing missions and allocated a new mission on the Wideband Global SATCOM system, which doubled the data rate for the Mercy, said Sgt. Bryson Taylor, wideband planner, RSSC-PAC.
“We responded to joint force requirements, reallocating essential satellite resources supporting COVID-19 response efforts on the west coast,” said Taylor. “By shifting communications elements, we ensured that optimal satellite resources were available for the Mercy while maintaining mission readiness for our military.”
USASMDC’s Satellite Operations Brigade leads Wideband Global SATCOM payload management for the Department of Defense, providing flexible and reliable communications worldwide, said Vince Street, senior wideband planner, RSSC-PAC.
“It is the RSSC-PAC mission to provide reliable satellite communication services,” Street said. “We conduct 24/7 operations in support of our nation, whether it is war time, peace or civil service needs.”
The space Soldiers at the RSSC-PAC stand ready for whatever is needed, Street said.
“It is not only our duty, but also our moral obligation to do everything within our power to help our fellow service members, as well as all other services that are directly fighting to stop the spread of the coronavirus and providing vital assistance to those in need,” said Street.
Mercy departed Naval Base San Diego for Los Angeles with more than 800 Navy medical personnel and support staff with the afloat medical treatment facility, and more than 70 civil service mariners. The ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals, and will provide a full spectrum of medical care to include general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults. This will allow local health professionals to focus on treating coronavirus patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their intensive care units and ventilators for those patients.