News: Signal Guardsmen train for combat
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Griego
FORT HOOD, Texas - “Always train as you fight,” said 1st Lt. Ragnar Jameson, executive officer for C Company, 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion. “There is no other standard.”
The soldiers of this National Guard communications outfit took these words to heart as they trained for more than two weeks in Fort Hood, Texas, on everything from networking to weapons qualification, all while simulating a combat environment.
“ESB is one of those units that can be deployed as a platoon-sized element to support any unit, anywhere in the world, and these units have to be self-sustaining and be able to operate in such a manner,” said Jameson.
To demonstrate this enhanced capability, the 136th ESB transported their entire compliment of shelters, tactical vehicles, and technical equipment more than 200 miles from their home station in Houston to the exercise sites of the 36th Infantry Division’s annual training at Fort Hood.
Their mission, from July 22 to Aug. 10, was to provide the full spectrum of voice and data support to two of the division’s subordinate brigades, while satisfying their own internal training requirements that come with being the standard bearers of the Texas National Guard’s signal community.
"The CAB, the aviation brigade, is deployed,” said Lt. Col. Jay T. Hancock, commander for the 136th ESB. “Their rear detachment is here and they have no signal assets out here. We’re fully on the table to support them. We’re also helping with some of the main links and getting the 72nd [Infantry Brigade Combat Team] into the fight.”
Their signal mission, which included providing service for scores of phones and workstations across three sites, was possible thanks to their recently-fielded, state-of-the-art equipment, such as the Phoenix/Super High Frequency (SHF) tactical satellite terminal.
“The Phoenix system is a satellite communication device that allows us to send data through space to the satellite and back down to other Phoenix or other satellite receivers worldwide if need be,” said Spc. Brandon Watts, a communications systems operator with C Company, 136th ESB. “The Phoenix can pull up the jack stands and be mobile while still maintaining a solid connection to the satellite, giving us a mobile command inside the actual Phoenix itself and allowing us to remote the computer that we use to monitor and control the system.”
In fulfilling their role as deployable assets, the battalion engaged their exercise sites with full-scale combat measures, such as perimeter concertina wire, check points, and camouflage netting over all trailers, shelters, and rest areas.
“It’s been a great success for us and it’s been a great success for the 136 ESB,” said Lt. Col. William Richards, the assistant chief of staff, signal, for the 36th Infantry Division. “It’s hard for an expeditionary signal battalion to find meaningful training on this scale. The biggest advantage for us was probably demonstrated last night when we had a little power glitch on Fort Hood. Even though I lost partial capability with my tactical hub node, they easily filled the gap so it was not even noticed by the end user. Overall, it’s been very good.”
The soldiers further capitalized on the training opportunities at Fort Hood by taking part in more traditional Army activities, keeping their warrior skills fresh and their proficiency high.
“We do have weapons [qualification] coming up in the next few days for the M16,” said Staff Sgt. Wendy Lopez, a team chief within C Company. “We also have an opportunity for some of our soldiers to take a ride on a Black Hawk, for those soldiers who have done above and beyond their duty. It’s something to reward them with. What I’m really proud of is our young soldiers are interested. They’re wanting to learn - they’re eager.”
The 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion is taking home from Fort Hood a renewed sense of mission readiness and finely-honed skill sets that set them apart from their peers.
“We’re coming to the fight,” said Hancock. “We’re here to support the commanders, help you have that digital edge on the battlefield.”