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Posted 12/2/2011

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By Carlos J. Lazo

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – “Don’t move.”

Click. Air hisses.

“Hit the button. Everyone else, don’t move.”

Another click. More air hisses, from the front and back of the truck. Everyone freezes, looking around at each other. Not 10 seconds later, Todd Wilson says with a smile, “It’s done.”

Wilson is a special project engineer with Nomad Global Communications Solutions Inc., a Montana company, and just finished demonstrating to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers emergency operation staff how to properly level one of three new emergency command and control vehicles, or ECCVs. Nomad built the ECCVs the Sacramento District received in early November 2011. The vehicles are part of the Corps’ deployable tactical operations system, a fleet of mobile command and communications centers that support the quick ramp-up of initial emergency response missions for the Corps.

Wilson, who worked on the electrical systems for the ECCVs, trained Corps staff on operating the vehicles at a Corps facility in West Sacramento, Calif., from Nov. 29 through Dec. 1. Attending the training were staff from the Sacramento, Los Angeles, Portland and Fort Worth districts.

Training focused on setting up and troubleshooting the electronics and controls of each ECCV; from leveling the vehicle and linking the onboard antennas and satellite dishes to maintaining the onboard generator.

“There are 1,500 wires in this vehicle,” Wilson said, “and about $390,000 in electronics.”

That translates to 11 workstations with connectivity to the Corps’ network, video teleconference capabilities, a cellular phone booster, four air conditioning units, full complement of radios for communication with other agencies, a GPS antenna and printers.

The Fort Worth District tested the ECCVs during a recent deployment and they’re “light years ahead of the old generation,” said Mark Sissom, senior civil engineer for the Fort Worth District’s operations division.

“One person can take this truck and set it up in 20 minutes,” Sissom said. “The old system took two people just to aim the [satellite] dish.”

Unlike the previous dish, which was loaded on a trailer, the ECCV’s onboard satellite dish can be set up electronically. But with so many new features comes the possibility of more problems.

For this reason, the third and final day of training focused on troubleshooting problems that can arise during use, Wilson said.

This opportunity was especially valuable according to Mike Palomo, a power plant mechanic with the Portland District. Palomo will fly to Alabama Dec. 2 and drive back a new ECCV back to his district.

“It’s excellent training,” Palomo said. “I’m looking forward to driving it, and [to] get the feel for it, how it handles.”

Once his drive is complete, Palomo and the other Corps staff who took part in the training will be able to maintain that familiarity on a monthly basis.

Plans are set for all of the participants to take their districts’ ECCVs out every month and go through setting it up and checking all the electrical systems. All $390,000 of it.