News: 35th TTSB exercise validates equipment, skills
Story by Sgt. Ashley Armstrong
FORT GORDON, Ga.— Soldiers of the 35th Signal Brigade (Theater Tactical) revitalized their expeditionary culture by proving their tactical skills, validating equipment, and exemplifying mission readiness during a brigade-wide field training exercise that was spearheaded at Fort Gordon, Georgia, May 19-22.
All four battalions, spanning from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were tasked to establish an operating base, employ communications systems, and rapidly move all equipment and reestablish connection once during the day and once at night during the exercise titled “Operation Lion’s Creed.”
“It was a great exercise for the brigade as we were able to mission-command units actually moving on the battlefield, which we would do in a real-life scenario,” said Maj. Jennifer Mendel, brigade operations officer in charge, 35th TTSB. “It was good for us to work with those systems as a Brigade; keeping track unit locations and understanding that they may only be there for a short period of time before moving again. It was a very realistic exercise.”
The brigade FTX also prepared Bravo Company, 67th Signal Battalion (Expeditionary), for Vibrant Response 2014, a national training exercise that will ensure the battalions readiness for Defense Chemical, Radiological, Biological, Nuclear, and Explosive Response Force missions in the future and validated Alpha Company, 63rd Signal Battalion (Expeditionary) for Global Response Force missions.
“We did stability operations for years where we were at a fixed site and we have to get back to the field craft,” Mendel said. “It was really great to be able to exercise those skills that we generally don’t or hadn’t been using in so long.”
The exercise proved a bit uncomfortable for some who were unaccustomed to the environment, their new teams, equipment and updates added Mendel.
“I’ve been able to cross train with [Joint Network Node] and the Phoenix,” said Spc. Ned A. Bennett, a satellite communication systems operator-maintainer and Nehawka, Nebraska, native, with Bravo Company, 67th ESB, 35th TTSB, who has most recently been on a Satellite Transportable Terminal team.
“Learning more and reacquainting with the Phoenix plus learning the JNN has been beneficial. It also allowed the brigade commander and other leadership an opportunity to understand what improvements could be made in training and equipment to enhance overall mission capabilities.
“Some of the equipment just doesn’t want to work but the good thing about that is that you tend to learn a lot, like what to look for when there are problems,” said Bennett. “If everything works all the time you never learn what you should do when something goes wrong. It helps us communicate. We find these little hiccups and make ourselves better for it.”
Many of the equipment issues that the signal teams faced couldn’t have been identified during day-to-day maintenance but required the trials of real-life operations, Bennett added. Those shortcomings, once properly annotated, are intended to be addressed and alleviated by the brigade’s next FTX in the summer.
Though it was far from flawless, the exercise still united the brigade in tactical scenarios and provided opportunity for all involved to grow individually and collectively into a more battletested and battle focused team.