Fort McCoy News May 23, 2014

Signal units perfect wartime skills in Exercise GF

STORY & PHOTO BY SPC. ANTHONY HOOKER
359th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade Public Affairs

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — Without the ability to communicate, missions are likely to fail. Soldiers from the 359th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade (TTSB), based at Fort Gordon, Ga., perfected their wartime skills to provide crucial communications capacities during Exercise Grecian Firebolt (GF) 2014 here May 5-16.

Photo for GF article
Col. William Peterson, commander, 359th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, along with his brigade staff, pays close attention as Roland Price, a field service representative, conducts training on Mission Command System Integration May 7 at the Joint Network Control Center at Fort McCoy.

GF provides critical training that allows signal units to keep pace with communication transformations, as well as link communication support to identified U.S. Army Reserve Command-sponsored exercises.

GF assesses planning, coordination and execution of active- and reserve-component signal unit capabilities to deploy to field locations to plan, engineer, install, operate, maintain and defend a communications network, as well as provide reliable and flexible command, control, communications and computer support.

The GF training affords the 359th TTSB the opportunity to achieve 359th TTSB Commander Col. William Peterson's call to be exceptional.

"When I assumed command of the 359th TTSB, I made it a point to inform the Soldiers of the brigade that we will be exceptional," Peterson said.

"Everything we do and every decision we make supports being exceptional."

He also emphasized that if the leaders take care of the Soldiers, the Soldiers will take care of the mission.

On orders, the 359th TTSB traveled north to participate in the Army Reserve's largest and only communications exercise supporting real-world missions and training exercises.

Soldiers participating in GF provide crucial communications, information management and network services, including Internet-supported radio and satellite connectivity and cable in a tactical, secure environment to supported units in the field.

Soldiers like Spc. Troy Anderson, a 359th TTSB information system specialist, talked about the valuable training he received.
Anderson, a Warner Robins, Ga., native, said when they tried to get all their systems up and running, they failed.

Before coming to annual training, the unit converted all the systems to accommodate classified information.

"We had to rebuild our domain controller, our super server, (the) SharePoint server and our Exchange server," Anderson said. "We got good training bringing all those systems up from scratch — our FSR (field service representative) walked us through it."

Anderson said the training was good because Soldiers followed a script and learned how to configure everything properly in the event they ever had to do it manually.

Master Sgt. Louis Corbett III, the 359th TTSB senior signal maintenance noncommissioned officer, agreed that a structured approach improved the unit's performance.

"As a brigade element in support of GF 14, the training allowed us to validate our proficiency as a brigade asset in the JNCC (Joint Network Control Center)," Corbett said.

"The training brought the full brigade staff sections together and used the various systems to support our brigade commander."
Corbett's assessment mirrored the expectations Peterson had for the 359th TTSB.

"My intent is for senior leaders to learn and focus on staff operations, to include effective and efficient communications with their teams," Peterson said.

"I also expect for the senior leaders to mentor and counsel their Soldiers on what is expected of them."
Roland Price, leader of the team of FSRs, said Soldiers did well during training, understanding what the command needs from JNCC personnel.

"We like to tailor training to a commander's vision and intent — every unit is unique," Price said.

"Just like you do in the real world we are going to do in training … you train as you fight."

Soldiers with the 359th TTSB also received extensive training on the Command Post of the Future (CPOF), a new workstation that allows battle captains to enter real-time updates for their commanders to consider.

"It's important to manage tactical information, all of the data that comes into the CPOF," Price said, adding that significant activities can be reviewed and considered more efficiently.

Corbett was especially pleased with the training.

"I think the training was exceptional," Corbett said.

"I think the guidance we received from the MSCI (Mission Command System Integration) team and the FSR to represent each component we have for the training itself was good for everybody."

"As a brigade asset, the technology allows us to access where we are now with the JNCC," Corbett said.

"It gives us real-time situational awareness on the battlefield, which allows combatant commanders to assess and determine what's needed to successfully deploy their resources."

The exercise allows units to employ and validate their internal standard operating procedures by focusing on their mission essential task list (METL).

Unit objectives focus on improving METL proficiency based on the unit's available force pool date and training year within the Army Force Generation cycle.

The training allowed the 359th TTSB to assess its current level of readiness and how to use lessons learned to improve as a signal brigade.

"Being able to train on the equipment with the guidance of the FSR and the MSCI team really brought forth where we had gaps as far as being ahead of the learning curve," Corbett said.

Corbett said the unit leadership identified areas where skill sets can be sharpened and, hopefully, take the information back as a collective task of refining how monthly battle training assemblies are conducted.

"Our brigade commander can see his staff working together as a whole based upon the training we got here at Fort McCoy," Corbett said.

Top leaders recognized the hard work the 359th TTSB put into training during the exercise.

Brig. Gen. Kaffia "Belle" Jones, 335th Signal Command (Theater), visited Fort McCoy May 9.

Jones received briefings from the staff and toured the training site speaking to Soldiers.

"Mentoring, developing and empowering. Along with that, we must always embrace resilience — that's what makes us successful," said Jones.