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Friday, December 11, 2020, 08:35 (GMT+7)
The Signal Brigade 205 ensures communication during search and rescue operations

Due to the impacts of global climate change, natural disasters and environmental incidents across our country tend to increase and become more complex and unpredictable. It is worth noting that since September 2020, natural disasters has continuously occurred in the Central Coast of Vietnam, with 6 storms, 2 tropical depressions, and serious historic rainy spells, floods, and landslides. Natural disasters have devastated many villages, inflicted extremely serious human and material losses on locals, and led to catastrophic consequences in all aspects of the social life. Typical examples include landslides at the Rao Trang 3 Hydropower Plant, the Economic-Defence Unit 337, and the commune of Tra Leng (Bac Tra My district). In response to the far-reaching consequences caused by natural disasters, our Party, people, and armed forces have devoted effort to adopting measures for search and rescue in order to alleviate losses and grief and quickly stabilise the people’s life. However, the terrain where natural disasters had taken place was very complex. Moreover, floods and landslides destroyed traffic systems, isolated many areas, and made our forces and vehicles unable to move. Meanwhile, the systems of on-the spot communication (both civilian and military ones) completely failed to serve the work of commanding and directing search and rescue. Against that backdrop, on October 13th, 2020, the Ministry of National Defence (MND) and the Signal Corps Command assigned the Signal Brigade 205 to organise and deploy a force which would ensure smooth communication for leaders of the Party, the State, and the Military to direct and command search and rescue operations in the province of Thua Thien - Hue. With its great political resolve, in spite of the fact that the Brigade’s force and means were scattered to perform other tasks, the Brigade’s Command quickly determined to concentrate force and means at the highest level on “the combat mission in peacetime.” Under the direction by the Prime Minister and leaders of the MND, the Brigade established and deployed a compact Team including elite, experienced cadres and soldiers, together with modern signal equipment straight to the scene (Phong Xuan commune, Phong Dien district).

Setting up television equipment for commanding search and rescue operations

To maintain communication for command and direction in the shortest time, on the way to the scene, the Brigade proactively contacted on-the-spot forces to get information about the flood and operations of rescue forces, developed a communication project, and assigned specific tasks to each individual and section. At the same time, it recommended the Signal Corps Command to direct other relevant forces as the basis for deploying its personnel and equipment. Besides, it had proactively cooperated with the Signal Brigade 80 under the Military Region 4 in preparing a rendezvous position and established signal equipment before the Team arrived. As a result, on the morning of October 14th, 2020, throughout the storm and flood, the Brigade’s Team travelled over 700 kilometres to reach the rendezvous position and completed setting up a general signal station for the headquarters of the MND and the Military Region 4, while organising a mobile force to establish a signal post at the Sub-Zone 67 of the Bo River Forest Ranger Station (Phong Xuan commune, Phong Dien district).

To give assistance to forces’ search and rescue operations, the Brigade established a connection between the headquarters of the MND, the Military Region 4, and the scene via television network, voice service, and shortwave radio as well as between scene commanders and forces in charge of search and rescue via extreme shortwave radio. It proactively provided names of communication waves and radio directions during the mission, while reaching an agreement on the radio name used by the MND and forces for special communication. Radios used at the scene and the MND’s headquarters were connected via multi-network devices so that leaders of the MND could contact every cadre in charge of search and rescue forces. The Brigade synchronously used and connected pieces of television equipment with the MND’s K200 centre via VSAT service, which enabled leaders of the MND to monitor the mission and discuss with commanders of the scene. To ensure smooth communication in any situation, the Brigade used VSAT telephones right after headquarters had been established. Thanks to its active, synchronous measures, by noon of October 14th, 2020, the Brigade succeeded in setting up the communication system from the scene to the MND’s headquarters and allowing leaders of the Party, the Government, and the Military to grasp the situation and opportunely give directions to the forces. At the same time, it managed to provide the most honest, accurate information and images for press agencies across the country.

Despite heavy rains, severely damaged roads, and complex, unpredictable landsides, the Brigade proactively cooperated with the People’s Committee of Phong Dien District in mobilising forces and canoes from public security offices and fishers along the Bo river to ensure communication for search and rescue at the Rao Trang 3 Hydropower Plant. It also used the reserve station at the Rao Trang 4 Hydropower Plant to maintain a solid connection with headquarters. Besides, the Brigade held a training courses on setting up and exploiting modern signal equipment right at the scene for the Signal Brigade 80 in order to organise a reserve signal force for directions in case the Brigade would leave. To ensure safety, the Brigade anticipated possible situations and gave instructions to each cadre and soldier on how to cross the river during the flood, pack signal equipment in a neat, safe manner, and prepare sufficient buoys for both personnel and equipment. Consequently, the Brigade’s Team successfully, safely manoeuvred and succeeded in establishing signal and television posts at the Rao Trang 3 and Rao Trang 4 Hydropower Plants, ensuring smooth communication, transmitting hundreds of telegrams and thousands of orders, and especially live broadcasting the scene for leaders at all levels to watch in a constant, solid fashion. When the search and rescue mission was expanded, the Brigade handed over equipment to the Military Region 4’s signal force, gave support to this force from afar, and continued to manoeuvre for other tasks.

From its task of ensuring communication for search and rescue operations within the Military Region 4, the Brigade has drawn several lessons as follows.

First, frequently make all necessary preparations and maintain readiness for manoeuvre in any situation. Annually, the Brigade reviews its combat projects, increases practical training, improves troops’ survival ability and skills in performing the task during rains, storms, and floods, carries out inspections of signal equipment, supplements technical and logistics materials, and develops projects  for deploying modern equipment for contingency missions. It also renders its troops fully aware of the frequency and complexity of storms and floods as well as their responsibility to protect the people from natural disasters so as to build up their will and determination.

Second, well conduct the work of task introduction, grasp and correctly assess the situation, formulate a proper logistics and technical support project, maintain close coordination with friendly units, and assign the task right at the scene in a close, scientific manner. Due to the urgency of missions and difficulties in manoeuvre, all offices and units must be responsible for issuing warnings, introducing tasks, making preparations, mobilising forces and equipment, and maintaining coordination with others. In the process of manoeuvre, it is necessary to grasp the intention of search and rescue forces to develop projects and broadcasting scenarios, and assign specific task to cadres and soldiers.

Third, organise a compact, effective, convenient communication system, use forces and means properly, and exercise command closely, flexibly. Due to complex terrain, heavy rains, and severe floods together with the participation of many forces, grounded on all-level commanders’ intention, it is vital to quickly formulate a project for organising radio communication with on-the-spot forces, maintain cooperation to carefully, flexibly establish a signal system, employ various method of communication via radio, wire, VSAT, and television, use forces properly and high-quality equipment synchronously, and operate missions resolutely, creatively under commanders’ directions.

Fourth, develop specialised military signal system and equipment for natural disaster prevention and control as well as search and rescue. To maintain “timely, smooth, solid communication in all situations,” plans on developing the communication system must be uniformed and synchronous at all levels, with priority given to the areas which are usually affected by natural disasters. Each region and area should have different means and networks, while military offices should be responsible for restoring the radio system for natural disaster prevention and control from central to commune levels to avoid discontinuity and meet the requirements set by the 4 on-the-spot motto. Moreover, it is important to build strong strategic and on-the-spot signal forces and engage them in regular search and rescue training courses and exercises to make them capable of grasping situations and terrain, performing their routine task, and maintaining readiness for manoeuvre. Due attention should be paid to establishing a military satellite cellular network and portable switchboards including radio subscriptions  and water-proof, shatter-proof, light cell phones, recorders, television equipment. Signal vehicles must be amphibious ones.

 The Brigade 205’s brilliant performance of the recent contingency mission has been highly appreciated by the MND and made contributions to proving the Military’s core role in search, rescue, and natural disaster prevention and control, and bolstering the image of “Uncle Ho’s soldiers” in the new period.

Col. NGUYEN VIET CUONG, Deputy Commander of the Brigade

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