The Network Enterprise Center here recently installed the installation’s first trunked Land Mobile Radio system to better prepare Fort Huachuca for any type of disaster. The efforts were part of a two-year process during which the NEC worked with the Project Development for Land Mobile Radio systems, or PDLMR, the Electronic Proving Grounds and Motorola Solutions.
PDLMR is responsible for acquiring and fielding new types of information technology systems and products for the Army.
NEC provides and defends the information technology services for the installation, including both phones and computers, according to James Ortega, frequency management, LMR administration. Each Army installation has a NEC which is responsible for all phone and computer services at that location.
Now that Fort Huachuca has installed the trunked LMR, all Directorates of Emergency Services’ police, fire departments, emergency medical technicians, patrolmen, firefighters and vehicles have the ability to coordinate with one another through their radios. They can also coordinate with emergency service personnel from Sierra Vista, Border Patrol, and other local agencies.
“Before, each agency would need their own dedicated [radio] frequency or they would hear others on their line. Now each agency can have several internal talk-groups without ever hearing another agency’s traffic,” explained Ortega.
A trunked radio system is a complex, computer-controlled two-way radio system. Ortega said this system allows sharing of relatively few radio frequency channels among a large group of users. Instead of assigning a radio channel to one particular organization at a time, users are assigned to a logical grouping, a talkgroup. The primary purpose of this type of system is efficiency; many people can carry many conversations over only a few distinct frequencies.
The implementation of the trunked LMR system is a part of the Army’s over-arching goal to meet the same Project 25 standards for narrow-banding and interoperability that federal, state and local public safety agencies have been federally mandated to follow. Project 25 is a civilian-sector driven standard that all law enforcement agencies nationwide meet to ensure they use the same radio frequencies and can communicate with each other no matter which agency they belong to rather than each agency using a separate frequency.
Although the system’s primary customer is the DES on Fort Huachuca, many other tenant organizations have received radios or radio upgrades during the system’s implementation to include the United States Army Intelligence Center and the 2-13th Aviation Regiment.
The system also has the ability to encrypt certain radio models using the Advanced Encryption Standard which prevents those without authority from using scanners to monitor radio traffic. This way others cannot hear what is being discussed over the radio.
“On Fort Huachuca, this encryption tool is utilized for emergency service personnel to ensure their traffic is protected at all times,” Ortega added.
Radios that do not have encryption capability will still have the radio channels separated by assigned talk-groups, so the past problems of hearing others on one’s assigned LMR channel will no longer be an issue.
“It [radio encryption] is essentially [used] to protect information. Should there be information that needs to be disseminated to those outside of Fort Huachuca, it can now be done through the proper channels without the risk of someone with a scanner overhearing cross-talk on the installation radio systems,” further explained Ortega.
The radios are completely customizable, Ortega added, explaining that each agency has their own channels with their own talk-groups structured in a way that works best for them.
The radios look identical to the older analog walkie-talkie versions. But inside the new radios is a significant infrastructure that computers, servers, routers, switches, software, etcetera use to increase what was once a very limited capacity.
Organizations that are planning to procure LMR radio systems in the future will now be required to make prior coordination with the NEC LMR/Spectrum shop at 538.8117/6030/7781 to ensure the devices are compatible with the current system and authorized for use on an Army installation.
Organizations that would like beginner or advanced user training can also contact the NEC LMR shop for support on radio function and system capability knowledge.