By Capt. Beverly Shepard and Spc. Taryn Evans
Capt. Michael Chapman contributed to this report
Warrant Officer 3 Howard Seay, Georgia State Defense Force 5th Brigade
During this Q & A with the Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) Public Affairs Office, Warrant Officer 3 Howard Seay shares how the GSDF 5th Brigade uses FirstNet.
FirstNet is a dedicated, high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network. FirstNet’s network is dedicated to public safety agencies and first responders, allowing them fast, reliable communications capabilities.
Q. How has the GSDF 5th Brigade used FirstNet?
A. The 5th Brigade is currently the only GSDF brigade with FirstNet Nighthawk Mobile routers for hotspot-related services. Our goal is to test new technology. That doesn’t mean FirstNet is going to be the standard going forth for every GSDF unit, but 5th Brigade has been testing FirstNet, and it has been successful, to date.
Q. Approximately how long has 5th Brigade used FirstNet?
A. The 5th Brigade began individual paid subscriber service for cell phone use approximately four years ago.
Q. How does FirstNet help 5th Brigade?
A. FirstNet hotspots provide high-speed voice and data connectivity to the 5th Brigade and are compatible with communications bands reserved for use in times of emergency. It is reassuring that connectivity is maintained during times when normal service is restricted or not available.
Q. Can individual Soldiers access FirstNet? If so, how?
A. GSDF Soldiers qualify for individual paid subscriber service for their own cell service since they are state agency volunteer first responders. The following steps are important for any Soldier interested in switching from their current service to FirstNet. The Soldier must first forward their request through their chain of command so that the request can be routed to a designated GSDF administrator. The designed GSDF administrator verifies eligibility of the Soldier to FirstNet. Once eligibility is verified, a Soldier can go to an AT&T wireless storefront and request assistance obtaining FirstNet.
Q. How have you, individually, used FirstNet for the GSDF?
Georgia State Defense Force (GSDF) 5th Brigade Warrant Officer 3 Howard Seay used FirstNet to transmit this photo and others to the GSDF Public Affairs Office, March 26, 2021.
A. ln March 2021, I used FirstNet to transmit photos to the GSDF Public Affairs Office after a tornado/storm in Newnan, Ga. Another example was the disaster response in Donaldsonville, Ga. in 2018 after Hurricane Michael. The 5th Brigade responded to the natural disaster. It was known that communications were limited. The 5th Brigade placed a resource request with FirstNet to support communications prior to beginning the convoy. While the convoy was enroute, FirstNet deployed a mobile cell tower and communications for FirstNet subscribers. Upon arrival, communication was seamless while other cell service was weak or nonexistent. The resources used were, and are, part of the network and are of no additional cost to subscribers.
The Georgia State Defense Force thanks Peachtree City (Ashley Peara) for photo contributions of the natural disaster that occurred in Newnan Ga., March 2021. Warrant Officer 3 Howard Seay, 1st Lt. David Abt, and Sgt. Joe Mezzatesta (reflecting ranks at that time) individually volunteered assistance during this response.