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JBLM launches new radio transmission platform

Amy Ridgeway, left, director of the Network Enterprise Center at JBLM, and Col. Kent Park, right, JBLM commander, cut a ceremonial ribbon in front of installation officials and first responders March 14. Photo credit: Courtesy photo

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD - Leaders with the Directorate of Public Works and the Network Enterprise Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord gathered with JBLM first responders March 14 to celebrate the launch of the base's new state-of-the-art, redundant radio transmission system that brings communications at the installation into a new realm of possibilities.

"By cutting the ribbon today, we are officially declaring the system operational," said Amy Ridgeway, director of JBLM's Network Enterprise Center, after cutting the ceremonial ribbon alongside Col. Kent Park, JBLM commander.

With the system operational, JBLM and Yakima Training Center now share the distinction of being independent Trunking Subcores of the Army CONUS Enterprise Land Mobile Radio network (ACE LMR). JBLM has already been host to one of only two core sites for the system, sharing that with Fort Drum in New York.

"Putting this new network into place has been a long time coming, and it is a big deal," said David Moylan, project manager for JBLM's NEC planning division. "We have transitioned from an analog to digital transmission medium and that provides us with a much more secure and robust radio system."

According to Moylan, the $6.9 million project took four years to fully deploy. Preliminary customer requirement surveys first began in late 2019, and in March 2020 an active contract with Motorola Systems was awarded to migrate to a new infrastructure plan that would support the system. The last step, final system tests, were completed this month.

Now, Moylan said the unified system takes radio communications far beyond what the traditional "brick" or walkie-talkie radio systems of the past could ever do.

"Those radios operated on ‘line of sight' operability, meaning one user would need to be in the general line of sight of the other," Moylan said. "Now, when I key my mic, I am sending a message on the strongest, most secure channel that is transmitted from tower to tower to tower until it reaches the designated recipient."

With these capabilities, the system now allows units at JBLM and Yakima Training Center to communicate with each other by radio.

It's a system that has already been utilized by first responders outside of JBLM, and Ridgeway said JBLM first responders can now communicate easily with Washington State Patrol and other local police departments.

"From first responders, military and civilian, to personnel at Madigan and even range control, this unified platform is going to benefit everyone," Ridgeway said.

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