FORT MCCOY, WI, UNITED STATES
FORT MCCOY, Wis. - The 359th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade successfully executed a 14-day mission in support of Operation Grecian Firebolt 2013, July 28 - Aug. 9 at Fort McCoy, Wis.
The 359th TTSB, an Army Reserve unit based at Fort Gordon, Ga., validated the deployability of its Joint Nodal Command Center while providing reliable communication support to a number of exercises (Operation Red Dragon, Combat Services Training Exercises 78 and 86).
Through the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical, which was installed and maintained by the 324th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, a subordinate unit of the 359th TTSB, secure and nonsecure Internet protocol routers as well as access to the Army Reserve domain in lieu of tactical landlines were provided to over 70 units [known as customers in the Signal field] in the Fort McCoy area.
Spread out over five locations, customers were able to run scenario-based training at mock Forward Operating Bases with little communication degradation.
Maj. Michael Mitchell, the officer-in-charge of the JNCC, said the center accomplished its most important goal: coordinating the synchronization of tactical reporting and network operations to its higher command, the 335th Signal Command (Theater).
“The command and control of communication requirements is critical to ensure the subscribers can get the message through on the battlefield,” said Mitchell, an Evans, Ga. resident. “The purpose of NETOPS is assured system and network availability, assured information protection, and assured information delivery. Our battle captains need to learn the techniques, tactics and procedures that allow them to brief the brigade commander on the network so he can make a well-informed decision.”
Each training exercise the 359th TTSB commanded was in support of Grecian Firebolt 2013, an annual four-month training exercise designed to provide a robust and responsive tactical communications network at various CONUS locations. Recognized as the largest annual training exercise involving Signal assets in the Army Reserve, units subordinate to the 335th SC(T) provide a strategic and operational network in support of United States Army Reserve Command directed exercises.
Col. James Chatfield, commander of the 359th TTSB, said his unit needed to become more familiar with its equipment, signal capacity and the customers on the ground they serve.
“CONUS-based Army Reserve Signal operations are [primarily] under the 335th SC(T) now,” said Chatfield, a Decatur, Ga., native. “We have nearly 20 percent of the signal battalions . . . two of five [Tactical Installation Network] companies are under the 335th.”
One of the 359th TTSB’s customers was the 103rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command. When visiting Volk Field, a Wisconsin Air National Guard base, Chatfield received a tour of the 103rd ESC’s command and control center. Numerous technicians and leaders briefed Chatman on how the WIN-T’s bandwidth capability allows customers to be liberal in their request for services.
With sites located in Tennessee, Iowa and Wisconsin, Chief Warrant Officer Tim McCulty, a network management technician with the 103rd ESC said the 359th TTSB and 324th ESB signal capabilities gave his unit the rare opportunity to gather up to the minute updates from the ESC level all the way down to a commander leading a supply convoy.
“We are training as if we would be following the front line,” said McCulty, a Barberton, Ohio, native. “Of course, we try to get as much signal support as we can because we want to provide the best service to our command. We want them to be able to accomplish the mission, whether it is by phone, email or video teleconference.”
McCulty talked about how the rate of success of logisticians in battlefield conditions can be directly determined by the ability to communicate with a variety of forces on the ground. His previous unit deployed to Iraq and had a footprint that supported over 7,000 logistics Soldiers.
“We provide support for logistics- Class I through Class IX products,” said McCulty. “That’s food, water, ammunition, machine parts and equipment. Without proper communications, the fog of war sets in. Nobody knows where supplies need to go and what the priority alerts are.”
McCulty said the 103rd ESC uses a central location called the Command Post of the Future to track convoy routes for improvised explosive device activity over a period of time. Data retained by the CPOF can lower the risks of incidents during convoys and likely save lives.
“Our leaders have countless decades of experience but if they can’t communicate, then we’re exposed,” McCulty explained. “We’ve got to be able to touch everything out [in the field].”
Chatfield said face time with McCulty helps him understand how our services take care of customers.
“When we go meet our customers face-to-face, it gives us the ability to network with that unit, a chance to acknowledge our shared experience,” said Chatfield. “It also forces our staff to interact with people they don’t normally associate with.”
Miller said it was also important for soldiers assigned to the JNCC to get comfortable with operations in an austere environment.
“Last year we conducted Grecian Firebolt over a two-month period at our home station,” Miller said. “We had more people available and were able to rotate personnel throughout the exercise. This year, we deployed to Wisconsin with less than 50 personnel in the company, successfully jumped the JNCC from a garrison environment [full-service building] to a tactical one, and conducted and executed critical signal soldier tasks.”
“We taught battle captains how to synchronize ASIs [Authorized Service Interruption] ... that training is important because you learn how to limit the impact of service degradation to the customer.”
After successfully completing a deployment to Afghanistan in 2011, the 359th TTSB experienced heavy personnel turnover. Chief Warrant Officer Clarence Toland, a network management technician with the 359th since 2010, said a number of soldiers in the enlisted ranks are hungry for knowledge, but have not had much experience with the equipment.
“We have a number of soldiers who lack experience,” said Toland, who also works as an information technology specialist in Columbia, S.C. “A lot of them are just out of school or have not had many opportunities to put their hands on equipment. They don’t want to just be used for manual labor so we are trying to reintroduce the importance of reading network diagrams, configuring the monitoring system.”
One of those soldiers, Spc. Erica Calvin, was able to see the JNCC in full operations for the first time. Calvin, an information technology specialist, came to the 359th from a military intelligence battalion last November. She said Grecian Firebolt 13 is the first opportunity she has received "hands-on experience" in her job field.
“When I was part of support [operations] in military intelligence, I worked on single-channel radios and man-packs,” said Calvin, a Hephzibah, Ga. native. “With this unit, I can focus on my job skill ... I built the icons on the projection screens, helped with Internet protocol schemes, and got training on frequencies and response times. It was also my first time doing a [tactical] jump so I learned how to break down and set up the command center.”
Toland added that if you know the diagrams and the capabilities of the equipment, it’s easier to process and configure the system.
“If you don’t use it, you lose it,” he concluded.
Chatfield said team-building exercises were in play for the brigade as early as manifest prior to departure from Ft. Gordon.
We successfully made movement from Fort Gordon to Wisconsin with three (changes in travel mode) in less than a 24-hour period,” he remarked.
“We also were able to use our own equipment to set up the JNCC this time. Last year, we borrowed the equipment from the 335th – we returned it as soon as the exercise was over – but with our own, more training can be planned. There is an acceptable risk of equipment damage that can occur because it’s the 359th’s equipment.”
Chatfield added that even playing dodge ball and kickball for physical training reinforced team-building efforts because it got the company to work as a unit.
“You can’t do this kind of training in the parking lot or during a weekend drill,” Chatfield explained. “Going into a tactical environment where customers are present and you are required to meet training objectives is much different than coming in for a few hours and setting up equipment. Folks get to step up and do things they wouldn’t normally do in garrison.”
||FORT MCCOY, WI, US
||AUGUSTA, GA, US
||COLUMBIA, SC, US
||DECATUR, GA, US
||EVANS, GA, US
||HEPHZIBAH, GA, US
This work, Army Reserve Signal soldiers complete Grecian Firebolt 2013, by SGT Anthony Hooker, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.