Keeping service members connected

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COOLBAUGH TOWNSHIP, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — On Wednesday, Eyewitness News reporter Kevin Hayes gave you a rare view inside the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Monroe County.

Now, Kevin has another special report that keys in on one of their top missions that keeps service members across the globe connected.

Commonly referred to as STT’s, satellite transportable terminals are one of the top mission priorities at Tobyhanna. They can also be the difference between how service men and women come home.

“In a battlefield situation things are changing by the second. Not minutes, not days and not even hours — it’s changing by the second. The faster that you can get that information, it might actually save somebodys’ lives,” sat com division chief Tony Brandi said.

Several generations of STT’s, giant mobile satellites on wheels, have come and gone over the years. And the men and women responsible for making those moving communication hubs work are here at the Tobyhanna Army Depot.

Their maintenance expertise is crucial because these hubs are deployed all over the globe, critical to successful missions on all fronts.

“The United States Army forces command has what they’ve deemed a top 20 list. We are on the top 20 list, I believe, as three of the slots on the list are taken by the STT in different versions,” sat com branch chief John Scott said.

Communication technology is so important. It often means the difference between victory and defeat.

“It gives that commander a vital sense of what he needs to do to be able to provide support to his troops that are in combat situations, in peacetime situations and it allows them to communicate with their higher command to understand what the true picture of the entire battlefield is,” Brandi said.

It’s more than a job to many employees here. People like Marine Corps veteran Holly Hanson, who knows first-hand how important their work is to the mission.

“Having been out there, seeing the equipment and knowing that I need it to work in a critical moment, I know what they go through. I understand. When this product or system leaves I know it needs to work. It needs to be in optimum condition,” Hanson said.

To ensure that happens, active duty national guardsmen are stationed at the depot, learning the intricacies of the system.

“Eventually, things happen. Sometimes you react too slow or you don’t know how to react. The great thing about being here at the depot is I’ve got all this knowledge and if something happens out in the field, I know how to bring it back up,” specialist Jayla Sanders said.

The sat com division chief is no stranger to the STT, with 21 years of service and three deployments under his belt.

“It gives me a sense of pride and patriotism that even though I’m not able to serve on the front lines, anymore, I can still serve my country and do my piece back here,” Brandi said.

Branch chief John Scott has a deep family military history and is proud to continue his service. Both chiefs have seen the ‘Inspected at Tobyhanna Army Depot sticker’ on equipment that’s helped them complete missions, something that gives them even more pride in the work they’re doing now.

“It’s a pretty good feeling when five, 10 or 15 years ago we had guys in the field, they open stuff up and see it’s got Tobyhanna’s tag on it. Now they’re back here working on that equipment, themselves,” Scott said.

“There’s a sense of ‘I want to come in here and do a good job to support those guys that are out there’ because I don’t know what they’re going through on a daily basis but I know if I can get them this piece of equipment, it might bring them home. It might save their life,” Brandi said.

Depot officials tell Eyewitness News the standard turnaround time for maintenance or complete overhauls is between 45 to 90 days but there are satellite stations and even mobile teams from the depot to assist in more dire circumstances. The mission is clear, communication is key.

The technology and capabilities of the STT’s have evolved so much over the years that when these aren’t being used in emergency situations, they can also be used for standard communication including calls back stateside for morale.

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