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MARMC Gets Whidbey Island Back Online

By Derry Todd, MARMC Public Affairs Specialist | Aug. 21, 2019

NOB, Norfolk, VA —

Technology is an integral part of today’s Navy, and what makes its’ war fighting ability possible. This is especially so with information systems. The Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET) and Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network  (NIPRNET)  are the backbone of navy communication and without communication and teamwork, everything else quickly falls under strain.

USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) experienced this first hand, but with the assistance of Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center’s (MARMC) C2I Systems Branch, the ship was brought back online.

While the Whidbey Island was pier side in Norfolk, gearing back up to an operational status, it encountered major issues with its internet that ship’s force was unable to solve. The Ship, incapable of receiving internet by other means, was forced to use a satellite for access to internet services, a less efficient source reserved primarily for ships underway.

“This was a huge problem for the ship and a waste of resources,” said MARMC Engineer James Dickerson. “They had been on satellite access since they pulled into port in January and they were unable to connect to the pier side internet due to a number of install problems.”

After some quick troubleshooting, SIPRNET was the first network the C2I Branch was able to get running, but the NIPRNET proved to be more difficult.

MARMC Engineer Kevin Swann arrived first on the scene, and began troubleshooting the cables and other simple fixes. It was soon obvious this was going to be a more complicated ordeal than “turn it off and on again.” As his comrades arrived, the troubleshooting became more tedious.

“We would have to schedule times where the whole ship would be taken off of internet access for hours,” said Swann. “The crew wasn’t happy about it, but we worked quickly and efficiently so we effected ship’s normal operations as little as possible.”

According to contractor and technical engineer, Joe Marnati, who is credited as solving the problem, other organizations had to get involved to solve the Whidbey’s connection issues. The Navy’s Theater Network System’s Operations Center (TNSOC) and the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Master Station (NCTMS) spent dozens of hours on the phone with the technicians trying one thing after another, looking at configurations and comparing them to other ship’s which have had similar problems.

According to Dickerson, Whidbey Island’s IT crew were especially skilled and helpful.

“They really knew what they were doing,” said Dickerson. “And thankfully, they spent a lot of time on the phone working with TNSOC and NCTMS for us so we could focus on other tasks.”

Information systems are very complicated and each piece must work together. Finding the one piece causing the problem can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

“Normally we don’t deal with this kind of problem. After the install, they normally don’t get service policies. This is within our realm of expertise, but we don’t commonly deal with this problem. We really had to think outside the box,” said Marnati.

A seemingly innocuous service policy was blocking the connection on the router.

“TNSOC and NCTMS were the ones who recommended we take the service policy off, and when we did, the internet came back on,” said Marnati.

The technicians spoke highly about completing the job, but they also spoke about it with a briefness that implied a sense of duty.

“I was just happy to tell them they were good, and all they needed to do was to submit a little bit of paperwork,” said Dickerson. “One less job in the queue.”

“Ship’s fixed, ship’s happy, let’s move on to the next one,” said Marnati.

Whidbey Island Commanding Officer Capt. Matt Arny, shared his appreciation in a message to MARMC’s Commanding Officer at the end of July.

“Thank you for the outstanding technical assistance, troubleshooting, and repair of T-1 connection IP services provided by MARMC Code 281 [MARMC C2I Branch]. Code 281 representatives Kevin Swann, James Dickerson, and Joe Marnati spent over 130 hours providing outstanding support in identifying and restoring NIPR services to WBI,” said Arny.