News: 35th TTSB uses FTX to train, prepare for future
Story by Staff Sgt. Ashley Armstrong
FORT GORDON, Ga. - Before the brink of dawn Aug. 11, Soldiers of the 35th Signal Brigade (Theater Tactical) were awakened by a call-to-duty. They swiftly geared up, loaded their bags, and readied to deploy all of the brigade’s equipment to training sites from the East Coast to the West Coast.
Soldiers left the comforts of their homes and offices behind for the week-long exercise spearheaded from Fort Gordon, Georgia, to unify their battle focused training tasks, tackle any adversities that crossed their paths, and ultimately leave the training field better prepared for any possible missions ahead.
“You don’t have the accommodations of being home. You don’t just get to sit down and work. It’s not as comfortable,” said Pvt. Andrew W. Kesner, multichannel transmission systems operator-maintainer, from Strasburg, Virginia. “You had 45 minutes to make a plan and validate your equipment and often times you’re missing a person whose expertise you need or a cable is bad or something isn’t going right.”
Kesner and his team had their equipment validated in 15 minutes, but less fortunate teams struggled to troubleshoot equipment and connectivity issues in the smoldering heat and humidity of the late Georgia summer.
“This helps make you learn each other’s strengths and weakness and helps you learn the best way to knock things out as team,” said Kesner about challenges they faced helping to validate equipment. “You have a lot of different people out here and they all have their own pieces of knowledge and experience and we all put it together to help everything get everything to work out and then move on to help someone else. This really helps you to get sharp on your skill.”
In some situations, challenges that they faced with modernized more convenient systems forced them to rely on older generation equipment and skills to establish connection.
“I hope the number one take-away is that Soldiers are able to see themselves – what went right and what went wrong – and use those lessons learned to sustain and improve their field craft for future operations,” Maj. Lee Adams, a native of Columbus, South Carolina, and brigade operations officer in charge, 35th TTSB.
Training was not over for those who validated quickly as they cross trained with Soldiers of different specialties, learned how to operate Blue Force Trackers, radios and Simple Key Loaders, performed Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) protective mask training, and some even practiced react to contact and movement drills.
“I think that we improved and enhanced the capabilities, individual resiliency and endurance of our Soldiers,” added Adams. “Specifically, the FTX helped to instill an expeditionary mindset across our formation as we deal with the complexities associated with transitioning from executing the non-standard wartime missions of the last 12 years to becoming an ‘Army preparing for war.’ Just as important, it proved that we maintain a high state of readiness and are prepared to deploy worldwide and extend LandWarNet (in support of) Unified Land Operations.”
The field training exercise (FTX) also served to validate and prepare companies in 67th and 63rd Signal Battalions (Expeditionary) to support real world missions as reactionary forces as part of Defense CBRNE Response Force and Global Response Force.
“In order for them to be able to do their job in the signal field, they also have to be able to do it in a chemical environment. If they can’t do it in a chemical environment then we won’t succeed,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dawnmarie L. White, native of Round Lake, Illinois, and CBRNE noncommissioned officer for 35th TTSB.
Both DCRF and GRF require the supporting companies to be prepared to deploy personnel and supporting equipment in response to a disaster within 96 hours or less after notification depending on the mission.
For Soldiers of those three companies the FTX kicked off with an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise (EDRE) to properly gauge the Soldier’s ability to respond quickly and to verify equipment operability in case they are called into action.
“We identified anything that would prohibit a vehicle from being prepared to deploy and gave the battalion an opportunity to correct it,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert Allen, native of Palestine, Texas, and senior automotive maintenance officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th TTSB, about the brigade team who led the EDRE. “Battalion’s know now what they need to be looking for to be better prepared to deploy.”
The FTX also provided training for the DCRF supporters to be prepared to appropriately respond to a chemical attack and perform their duties in a chemical environment while wearing protective gear.
The FTX, called “Operation Lion Shield,” is the second this year and each has provided Soldiers a chance to bring their teams and equipment into action, to establish live connections, and learn invaluable lessons along the way.