[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                   October 10, 2008

Computer Center expansion 
serves mobilizing Soldiers

By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor

The Soldier Computer Centers (SCC) at Fort McCoy are a big hit with personnel from the 81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT).

Photo: Sgt. Eric Zabala (left) helps Sgt. Ryan Weisenburger work on a project at one of the Fort McCoy Soldier Computer Centers. Next to them is Sgt. Gerhard Schramm. All three Soldiers are from the 81st Heavy Combat Brigade Team. (Photo by Tom Michele)
Sgt. Eric Zabala (left) helps Sgt. Ryan Weisenburger work on a project at one of the Fort McCoy Soldier Computer Centers. Next to them is Sgt. Gerhard Schramm. All three Soldiers are from the 81st Heavy Combat Brigade Team. (Photo by Tom Michele)

Soldiers swarmed to the centers on their off-duty hours while the 81st is at McCoy as it mobilizes in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I am able to keep up with my e-mails and Army pay and to take care of personal stuff by using the centerís computers," Pfc. Joshua Peters said. Peters is with the 81stís B Troop, 303rd Cavalry. "I get to my Army Knowledge Online (AKO) account and also my My Pay Army financial records."

Spc. Thomas Suhr, H Troop, 303rd, said, "I definitely like the computer center as I have access to pay my bills and communicate with my family and friends. Itís great to have it available. I also use the center for my Army learning classes and AKO correspondence courses for earning promotion points."

A center in building 2711 was opened in February 2003 and has 21 workstations. A new center was opened in building 2558 this August and has 60 laptop computers available for use.

The two centers are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and are for mobilization and demobilization Soldier use only.

Wes Howard, an information technology specialist with the Directorate of Information Management (DOIM), said, "As we look at the evolving missions Fort McCoy carries, we still need to recognize that Soldiers need a way to stay electronically connected, whether they are deploying, redeploying, conducting pre-mob training or battle drill."

"Itís how Soldiers communicate with their loved ones, pay bills, take courses ó a very wide range of needs," Howard continued. "So, regardless of the clientele, I can certainly see the need for a facility that provides the Soldier with the capabilities of a network-connected computer with printing, Web access, fax and copier services."

Howard also said, "The first center (2711), was a joint effort with Soldiers of the 6015th Garrison Support Unit here at the time and DOIM staff. The second SCC is something I thought of earlier this year when looking at the sheer numbers coming for the 81st HBCT. It was like one of those moments Roy Scheider has in the movie ĎJawsí when he says, ĎWeíre gonna need a bigger boat.í So we leveraged some equipment assets and the fine folks on Debra Hytryís Team Eagle Systems (civilian contractor) staff made it happen."

Hytry, an information management supervisor, said, "Periodically, we have received requests from units to block off a portion of computers so they could rotate their Soldiers through to complete a computer-based training course, such as drivers training. We gladly did this in building 2711. Soldiers use the headphones so they are not disruptive to the other customers. When we opened building 2558, we placed six computers in each of two small offices specifically for this purpose."

Hytry provided Soldier use of the centers, showing 3,470 Soldiers used building 2711 in August and 4,144 Sept. 1-29. Average daily use is 127. Building 2558 figures are 1,071 personnel from Aug. 18-31 and 4,600 from Sept. 1-29, with a daily average of 132.

Spc. Tiffany Balcaitis, of A Troop, 303rd Cavalry, said use of the computer center is important because, "I get to visit with my family and friends and work on my Army online training course. I also get to stay updated with national news. It is the easy way to stay in contact and up-to-date."

Sgt. Joshua Kunkel, also of A Troop, said, "The center is an absolute necessity. I take Army classes online, particularly right now a hazmat session for my driving course. Itís also nice to have access for e-mail."

Spc. Cynthia Schmitz, also of A Troop, said, "I like the center because it is close to the barracks and I donít have to wait in line for a computer. I like the quick access to the Internet."

Sgt. Jeremy Rhodes, B Company, 184th Infantry, said about the center, "Itís important so I can pay my house mortgage and be in contact with my friends. I also read my hometown newspaper online and sometimes print out articles from the paper. It works out pretty well for me."

(Michele is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)

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