By Jeff CrawleySeptember 11, 2008
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas --- When the 106th Signal Brigade was operating in the 1990s in Panama, one of its customers there was U.S. Army South. But because of the provisions of the Panama Treaty of 1977, all U.S. forces left Panama and the brigade was inactivated in 1997.
With the reorganization and activation of the 106th Signal in July at Fort Sam Houston, the brigade got back its former customer U.S. Army South - now its neighbor at the Old Brooke Army Medical Center.
Still in its cadre phase, the 106th Signal is being built from the ground up. Soldiers are trickling in everyday and procuring office equipment, writing procedures and doing everything else necessary to establish a unit.
"It's going well and my number one priority is building the workforce," said Col. Chris Miller, 106th Signal commander. "We're doing that with the civilian employees and the military that are starting to show up."
Once operational, the 106th Signal will provide strategic communications for all Army forces in the Western continental United States. This network, known as LandWarNet, includes all data, voice and video systems, said Lt. Col. Geoff Pinsky, the unit's S-3 or training officer.
Currently, there are eight enlisted and five officers working in a temporary location in the basement of the old BAMC. At full strength the unit will have 90 Soldiers and 96 civilians by 2010 working in Buildings 145, 146, 147 and 149, at Stanley and Reynolds roads, Pinsky said.
Renovations are under way at these sites and represent about $1.8 million of the $2 billion worth of construction projects going on at the post, Miller said.
Many of the 106th's Soldiers will be from the military occupational specialty 25-series and warrant officer communication specialties, said Company Commander Capt. Larry Walton, Headquarters Company, 106th Signal.
This includes 25B information systems operator-analysts and 25W telecommunications operations chiefs.
With so few Soldiers, the ones who are there are finding themselves doing jobs outside their MOS, said the 106th's Command Sgt. Maj. Jacqueline Halton.
"They going to have to be accustomed to becoming a jack-of-all-trades until all their co-workers come on board," she said. "Right now, everyone has to pitch in and do various things."
Pinsky, who is a signal officer, said he is becoming very well versed in facilities engineering.
The 106th Signal along with its sister brigade 93rd Signal, which is responsible for the Eastern continental United States, were activated to provide better communications services to Soldiers, Miller said.
"We want to make it very easy on the warfighter to transition from the desk to the foxhole and back," Miller said.
The 106th Signal is assuming communication responsibilities of the Installation Management Command's Southwest Regional Chief Information Office, as well as the Northwest region of the United States, Pinsky said.
"The Southwest RCIO will become the corps of our civilian workforce at the 106th," he said.
The 106th Signal will uncase its colors during a ceremony here in February 2009. The 93rd Signal will do the same at Fort Eustis, Va. Both brigades are under the 7th Signal Command (Theater).
Pinsky and many of the Soldiers agreed that it is an exciting time to be a member of the 106th Signal.
"It's not often in the Army that you get to exercise a certain degree of creativity," he said. "With activation, it's a chance to exercise creativity and form an organization in a manner if you were king for a day."
And, for Sgt. 1st Class Lesley Moore, who has been a Soldier for 12 years, it's her first new unit and her first assignment as a first sergeant.
"It's a new experience. I'm looking forward to it," Moore said, referring to her responsibilities and her unit.