Working together, sharing a common mission, bond
In a small confined room, an echo of telephones ringing, people talking, and the sound of dozens of people typing on keyboards, may sound like chaos but is actually a coordinated effort of a group of experts at work. This is a glimpse into the central information hub of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA).
From coordinating personnel movements and supporting military-to-military engagements to personnel recovery and crisis response, the Joint Operations Center (JOC) mission is to provide a variety of fact-based courses of action to the leadership at CJTF-HOA.
As the CJTF-HOA commanding general, Brig. Gen. Wayne Grigsby Jr. is responsible for an 18 country, 2.4 million-square mile operating area, which makes the JOC is a vital asset.
“The coalescence of U.S Forces and coalition forces here at CJTF-HOA epitomizes the dynamic world we live in today” said U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Tony Nesbitt, senior enlisted leader of operations, plans, and training and exercise sections. “Across the joint operating area, we represent a diverse force working with partner nations. Our strength is in this diversity. The value in understanding what each service or nation can bring to our mission, in and of itself, creates efficiency thus increasing the effectiveness of our mission.”
Nesbitt maintains the “pulse check” on about 120 officers and enlisted service members by evaluating future and current operations for safety and supportability, as well as processing and executing the information flow.
“As a result of increased operations, there are currently more than a dozen different (career fields) in the JOC,” Nesbitt explained.
With a 25-percent personnel turnover rate each quarter, it is vital for those who work in the JOC to train, mentor, and use varied levels of communication to ensure everyone understands the mission and goals.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Barrett, JOC senior watch officer for operations, plans, and training/exercise sections, provides visibility of the area, and accountability of the teams.
“The ops tempo can change at a moment's notice within our area of responsibility. While we work on a particular operation like our current situation in Juba, we maintain all of our other operations,” Barrett said. “This movement is all documented for accountability and after action reporting. This can look like a flurry of activity, but it’s actually an organized nucleus where we build situational awareness ... call it the Heartbeat of HOA.”
Barrett explained that in the JOC, every service member learns from each other. The joint environment allows each person to learn the proud histories, traditions and unique cultural qualities of each service, as well as how all services share a common mission and bond.
Through the day, the senior watch officer receives information updates from intelligence, communications, weather, air component and many other organization representatives on the JOC floor. Communications flow into the JOC throughout the day, to include updates from people downrange and mission completion status from those forward deployed. The information compiled is then disseminated to CJTF-HOA leadership.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Burchfield III, Det. 3624, Tactical Military Information Support Operations team chief and detachment NCO-in-charge, coordinates with and maintains accountability of forward deployed units.
“Working ‘jointly’ forces you to branch out and take the time to familiarize yourself with what other sections do and how they operate,” Burchfield said.
Another critical component of the JOC is intelligence.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alan Doerter, watch lead petty officer for intelligence and operations section.
“The system monitors time-sensitive all-source intelligence traffic that pertains to CJTF-HOA’s area of responsibility and interest,” Doerter said. “This helps to develop intelligence products regarding real-time activities in order to defeat violent extremist organizations, conduct crisis response, and execute personnel recovery.”
Working in a joint environment has provided Doerter with numerous opportunities to teach and learn from fellow service members, which would not have happened in a Navy-only command. “This has supplemented my career and molded me into a better intelligence analyst,” Doerter said.
Providing the eyes and ears over the area of operations is U.S. Air Force Capt. Jarred Chamberland, chief of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.
“My job gives senior leaders near real-time indications and warning to make decisions,” Chamberland said. “This is not my first time working in a joint environment, but it is the most diverse. There are times when communicating across services can be difficult, as we sometimes speak different lingos, but overall, I think it brings together the best of all services to accomplish the mission.”
With the constant flow of information in and out of the JOC, the CJTF-HOA mission wouldn’t happen without teamwork.
“I’m amazed everyday by the work done in the JOC,” Nesbitt said. “Every day there are challenging tasks placed on personnel here, but they never fail to step up to the plate and get it done. Each of our services is strong on their own, but together they’re unbeatable, and we prove that every day.”