2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany. In German history there is perhaps no greater instance of a paradigm shift than what occurred on Nov. 9, 1989.

US Army 5th Signal Command, who has been a resident in Germany since its activation in 1974 and known by other names in Europe since World War II, is attempting to break down an internal wall that separates the capabilities of its garrison-based units and its deployable expeditionary units. If successful, this signal paradigm shift will give birth to new way of delivering comprehensive communications support to warfighters and military customers. The concept is called:


"Full Spectrum" is a prototype solution to an ongoing signal issue that revealed itself during Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Currently, 5th Signal's two expeditionary signal battalions, the 44th and the 72nd are on a constant deployment rotation to Southwest Asia. This leaves a less than desirable amount of tactical signal capability to support the ever-growing number of exercises and coalition-building activities coupled with ongoing and potential contingency operations in the greater region. It also creates silos of skill sets between those who are assigned to tactical units and those assigned to fixed-based units.

5th Signal then considered how it could leverage its six other battalions in Europe that are only organized and equipped to provide fixed-based garrison signal support. This question was then posed, 'What happens if you give tactical assets and capability to the operational fixed-based signal units and give operational-based assets and capability to the tactical signal units'' The answer is you get multi-capable signal units that can execute the "Full Spectrum" of signal operations whether they are at home station or deployed.

"These units are able to support their customers' requirements from end to end, in garrison, in certification to deploy or while deployed," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey G. Smith, Jr., commander, 5th Signal Command.

The end result would theoretically give 5th Signal eight Full Spectrum battalions and in turn the command would also transform its two signal brigades (one operational-based, one tactical) into two FS brigades.

One of the arguments for the FS concept is that expeditionary signal units are currently performing FS operations downrange due to changing requirements and phases on the battlefield. Besides providing tactical communications to warfighters in austere areas, they also are called upon to provide stability signal support to forward operating bases with large concentrations of Soldiers, civilians and contractors, much like what one would find on a typical garrison.
"Prior to deploying, it was key that my Soldiers received signal training in those fixed-based 'strategic' skill sets because we knew we would have to perform those types of missions even as a tactical unit," said Col. Randall Bland, commander of 5th's 7th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, currently deployed to Afghanistan in support of OEF.

5th argues that too often signal Soldiers downrange are having to perform skills outside their occupational specialties and have to learn 'in the middle of the fight' how to conduct fixed-based network operations and how to operate and maintain commercial-of-the-shelf (COTS) equipment in order to sustain FOBs and headquarters. Under the FS concept, signal Soldiers, regardless of their location or mission, will be able to 'hit the ground running' and be able to simultaneously handle the broad range of signal support from help desk services on a large multinational FOB or garrison to extending a tactical network and internet to a remote location with only a handful of warfighters.

Smith explains that the implementation of FS into the signal regiment will also provide more available and ready signal units into the Army Force Generation pool because, under FS, even the traditional garrison-based signal units would have expeditionary assets and capability. ARFORGEN is the structured progression of increased unit readiness over time resulting in recurring periods of availability of trained, ready, and cohesive units for operational deployment, according to http://www.army.mil/aps/07/addendum/h.html.

One of the key aspects of the ARFORGEN process is that the Army will task organize modular expeditionary forces tailored to joint mission requirements. The FS concept is designed to complement the Army's shift toward modularity in that, when needed, a FS signal unit could deploy its expeditionary assets forward and still maintain fluid signal operations on a garrison with its civilian workforce.


During the first week of November, 5th Signal Command invited distinguished visitors from military organizations such as US Army CIO/G6, US Forces Command, US Army Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Signal Command and the US Army Signal Center to view the FS concept in action. The timing of the visit is noteworthy since the Army Signal Regiment is currently involved in a Functional Area Assessment that will reassess and realign signal forces in order to better support the Army's new modular and expeditionary stance.

"What we are challenged with here is to define who does what in the (signal) regiment," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Foley, commanding general of the US Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon. "We've got to determine the linkup between responsibility and authority."

The first day of the visit, the guests were taken to Coleman Barracks and the Lampertheim Training Area in Mannheim, Germany to view 2nd Signal Brigade's current implementation of the FS concept. 2nd is one of two brigades under 5th Signal. 2nd's traditional role is to command and control six operational or fixed-based battalions throughout Europe. What the visitors viewed was anything but fixed-based operations. Through a video teleconference, the commanders from the 102nd and 509th Signal Battalions gave a tactical update from their deployed locations. (The 102nd from the Republic of Georgia supporting exercise Immediate Response and the 509th from Israel supporting exercise Juniper Cobra.)

Both battalion commanders reported that their civilian counterparts and staff where running the day-to-day garrison mission while they were away commanding and controlling a tactical mission.
Full Spectrum was in full effect.

The guests then visited 2nd's 43rd Signal Battalion at the LTA. A normal visit to the 43rd would have mostly included seeing Soldiers sitting behind desks working on computers or monitoring their local network. On this visit, they saw 43rd Soldiers in full battle rattle cross-training on tactical signal equipment such as the Joint Network Node, which is the Army's current solution to extend the network to warfighters in a deployed environment.

"I think the strategic (operational-based) Soldiers need to know the field craft just like the tactical (expeditionary) Soldiers do," said Brig. Gen. LaWarren Patterson, deputy commanding general, 9th Signal Command. "That way, no matter where they go it will all be a blur - strategic and tactical won't matter, they'll be able to do it all."

The final part of the FS signal summit brought the hosts and guests together at the Joint Multinational Simulation Center in Grafenwoehr, Germany. All participants were shown a two-day FS rehearsal of concept to get an all-encompassing understanding of FS and how it could benefit the signal regiment in the future.

A key theme in the discussions was that under FS, a signal brigade, for example, would be able to tailor itself (modularize) to a given mission. It was brought up that often times a signal brigade gets an order to deploy and has to send all of its troops and assets into a well-established operation only to find that the communications infrastructure is mature enough that it doesn't require as many Soldiers to accomplish the mission.

In a FS brigade, a commander could assess the scope of a mission and only send the appropriate tactical module of his or her assets to support exercises, contingency operations or a deployed corps-sized joint task force. The other "modules" of the FS brigade would be available for conducting home base network operations, headquarters support and training signal elements of brigade combat teams for deployment, just to name a few.

"This concept is all about a modular construct," said Smith. "The FS brigade is a fundamental shift in how we support operations and we have to tailor a brigade headquarters based on the event."
"Anything that adds flexibility and agility to our operations is an important thing," said Col. Jacinto Santiago, Army CIO/G6 - Architecture, Operations, Networks and Space (AONS).

Smith, during deliberations made it clear that FS "is not just a Europe thing." Some of pushback with the FS concept is that it may not be feasible across the entire signal regiment.

"All we are here to do is to set the table of possibilities for the future," said Smith. "The Full Spectrum concept is a viable option for us here in Europe, but the overall intent is to help the whole signal regiment transform in a way that supports every warfighter from any location."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16