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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

"The West Coast's Premier Fleet Marine Force Training Base"

MCTSSA help desk: linchpint of battlefield information networking

By Sgt. Cindy Fisher | | May 4, 2000

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A staff of 23 Marines and civil servants at Marine Corps Tactical System Support Activity finds solutions to technical problems Corps wide.The Marine Corps Systems Command help desk provides continual hardware and software expertise for all command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems that provide commanders with battlefield information."Our mission is to support the warfighters," said Capt. Rick Fleming, help desk officer-in-charge.This help desk is not for everyone. Their customers include intelligence analysts, communication specialists, ISMO, Marine Air Ground Task Force planners and Nuclear Biological Chemical specialists. Customers can contact the help desk by phone, an online chat room, a Web site, secure and nonsecure e-mail or by walking in. Customers often find their own answers in the Web site's database, said Maria Hahn, project head.The desk is on-call 24 hours a day, six days a week. Their workweek begins Sundays at 4 p.m. to be available for III Marine Expeditionary Force and ends Fridays at midnight.The desk averages 180 trouble calls a month, Hahn said. It can take as little as 10 minutes or up to three weeks to find an answer. Questions asked include how to integrate different systems, software commands and when new software versions will be available.But this help desk does more than just answer the phone.The MARCORSYSCOM C4I help desk is unlike other such desks, Hahn said."We are a 'fly-away' help desk," she said. The analysts, comprising Marines and civil servants, are split into "Tiger Teams" to specialize in the different C4I systems the project supports. If necessary, teams are ready to deploy to the operating forces in the field or at the base. They will go anywhere help is needed setting or troubleshooting equipment, Hahn said.The staff requires constant training to stay up to date with advancements in technology, Hahn said. Personnel are sent to training workshops and undergo in-house training. If a trouble call comes in that the staff cannot answer, they can fall back on the knowledge of other experts at MCTSSA."We try to find the answer at all costs," Hahn said. "We work on our areas of responsibility, and every quarter the teams meet and brief each other on their progress."The project has evolved during its three-year existence."We started by supporting just GCCS and evolved to support more," Hahn said.Staff constantly monitor their procedures to improve the amount of help they can offer. They also work in conjunction with Air Force and Joint Service help desks to provide better service to their customers.
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