Warrant Officer Mario Kuik is one of the key players within the IT exercise Steadfast Cobalt 2022 (STCO22). He is the gatekeeper of everyone entering the IT systems. Steadfast Cobalt is a yearly returning exercise where our IT personnel have the unique chance to configure and set up technical solutions with subject matter experts. STCO22 is the certification exercise for the NATO Response Force 2023 (NRF23).
Upcoming NRF 2023
STCO22 is a SHAPE sponsored, all level C4ISR interoperability EXERCISE. C4ISR stands for Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. The aim of STCO22, based on standardized operational requirements, is to verify, validate and enhance interoperability of the deployed NATO force structure forces. ‘’For me, that covers all necessary actions to prepare and test all communication means of 1GNC and our subordinate units for the upcoming NRF 2023 standby period.’’
Responsibilities within the exercise
‘’Within the Mobile CIS Control Center (MCCC) of 1GNC’s CIS battalion, I am personally responsible for the interoperability of 1GNC systems within our own domains and to mission network partners therefore I configure and maintain the Interoperability Gateway Box (IGB).’’
‘’In non-technical language you can consider me as a kind of guardian, see the IGB as a gate and I am the guard checking everybody who’s certified to come in but also everyone going out. The only difference is that I do this in an ICT network, determining protocols and ports for all IP based services required like email, voice, chat, web pages and programs. That means I check and guide all bits and bytes related to users and information going in our network from coalition partners and outgoing information from 1GNC.’’
The Interoperability Gateway Box operates in the center of all information exchange requirements of the Corps. Without the IGB we can’t connect to our coalition partners or to our own service tools. Within the unique Corps IT environment architecture we connect client core services hosted on the national mission secret systems, installed, operated and maintained as well by MCCC via the IGB.
‘’By nature of interoperability and because of the complexity of architecture, permanent system changes and fast developing IT environments I’m forced to work in close cooperation with other technical disciplines and partners. Guided by G6 OPR for STCO22 and NCIA technicians, we have to establish hundreds of arrangements by phone, mail or IT Service Management systems with multiple coalition partners, contractors and support partners.’’
The Mobile CIS Control Centre is a group of technical specialists – all in their own discipline and profession.
Within the IGB all these service components come together and it’s a common effort for the team to provide all desired services in time and reliability to the user. ‘’We as MCCC act as well as an interface for higher level support and are in permanent information exchange about the used IT system. Because of the unique setup 1GNC made we have to create a lot of tailor-made solutions. So you see I have a lot of contact with a lot of different people to make my job a success!’’
‘’I hope I can end with an operational, good working system certified for NRF 23 and also keep a good understanding of what I did, therefore documentation has to be written. We started this year with lots of new soft- and hardware configurations for all our systems, which means they work differently now compared to last year. I like to know how my system works so I hope that I also have time to dig in my new system to learn the ins and outs.’’
STCO exercises are based on a database called IOCORE. Within the database one can find every detail of the setup which is crucial for proper system setup and configuration. Before the start of the exercise there were a lot of meetings that resulted in a Course of Action (COA). I really recommend to fill in only valid and proved information into the database and to stick to agreed COAs. This eases troubleshooting and enables a professional setup.
‘’IT never stops. Exercises like Steadfast Cobalt are a unique chance to configure and set up technical solutions together with subject matter experts. We still have to learn a lot of our new systems, but in the end our clients can work and we can proof NATO that we are ready for our task to support them during our standby period of NRF23.’’