West Virginia University at Parkersburg
300 Campus Drive Parkersburg WV 26104
Phone: 304-424-8203 | Fax: 304-424-8315
Team of WVU Parkersburg computer technology students and faculty relocates Joint Military Operations Center in New Orleans as part of Katrina relief effort.
(Editor's Note: Members of the WVU-P team are available for interviews. Contact Doug Weaver, assistant professor of computer science, 304-424-8330, office; 304-532-0311, cell.)
Photos: WVU Parkersburg team with New Orleans military relief personnel; WVU Parkersburg students wire and network operations center; Relocated operations center up and running; Students assist in relief efforts.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Four students at West Virginia University at Parkersburg have learned the impact that real-world experiences can have.
A group of WVU-P computer network engineering students and two faculty members returned last week from New Orleans after spending several days helping to re-locate the Joint Military Operations Center as part of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
Due to the vastness of the hurricane destruction, military commanders had decided to move an existing Joint Operations Center, which serves New Orleans and southern Louisiana, to a new location. The center is the main command/control center for all military relief operations in the New Orleans area. WVU Parkersburg faculty member Doug Weaver, a tech sergeant in the WV Air National Guard, arranged for a WVU Parkersburg student team to help relocate and set up the emergency operations center network.
“I knew this would be a wonderful hands-on learning experience for our network engineering students,” he said.
Weaver, who also is coordinator of the college’s Computer & Information Technology program and administrator of its Cisco Regional Networking Academy, had been in New Orleans earlier to help with military communication links.
Due to the shortness of time to accomplish the relocation of the operations center, Weaver suggested that a team of WVU-P network engineering students could do the job of networking, wiring and setting up the new facility for the Command Center. The two task force commanders -- WV Army National Guard Commander Brigadier General John Barnette and Brigadier General Hunt Downer, Assistant Adjutant General of the Louisiana National Guard -- endorsed the suggestion.
Cisco Systems agreed to provide funding for transportation, and a team of four WVU-P Cisco Networking Academy students and two WVU-P faculty traveled to the Belle Chase Naval Air Station. Members included sophomores Ted Corbitt of Elizabeth; Michael Noland of Parkersburg and Frank Waybright of Evans; junior Tim Rapson of Parkersburg; Jenny Dawkins, assistant professor of computer information and technology, and Weaver.
“Initially, the military command planned for the project to take three days,” Weaver noted. “After arriving, we found out that we would have only 24 hours and would not have access to the new facility until the day before we needed to set everything up.”
When “moving” day approached, the Parkersburg team arranged the new operations center room in a “U" shaped configuration. The group also set up a 10' x10' projection screen and five large plasma screens that they wired into the network.
"The students installed all of the computer network drops, ran the LAN (local area network) cable as well as telephone cables, and set up network printers and a server,” Weaver noted. "They also set up secondary desktop computer monitors so that each computer would have 'extended windows desktop' capability.”
“All workstations were then wired into two switches which were wired into a router. The team worked non-stop until about 9:00 p.m.,” he continued. “Exhausted, they went back to an abandoned Navy hanger where they were provided with 'plush' army cots.”
Though faculty members’ alarms were set for 5:30 a.m., the students got up at 5 the next morning to begin work by 6:30 a.m. They worked straight through for six hours at which time they notified the "Battle Captain" of the former Joint Operations Center that the new facility was ready for the transition, Weaver said.
“Within 35 minutes, the students switched over to the new facility and were completely operational with only minor glitches,” he noted. “The “downtime” of 35 minutes was phenomenal since the command had anticipated several hours. All was an overwhelming success and the military commanders were amazed that we were able to get the complete job done within the 24-hour time frame.”
Many of the military involved in the communications relocation thought the WVU Parkersburg students were professional contractors, Weaver noted.
“Thanks to the WVU-P Cisco and Microsoft courses, the students conducted themselves in a professional manner and their accomplishments have been an enormous help to the ongoing Hurricane Katrina and Rita relief operations,” he added.
While there, the Parkersburg group also helped distribute food and water to area Louisiana residents still dealing with the day-to-day struggles of rebuilding their lives and homes.