WIESBADEN, Germany -- Soldiers from the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion deployed to the Grafenwoehr Training Area May 11-20, 2015 to hone basic Soldier and signal-specific skills during Operation Fearless Elk.

Lt. Col. Pete Wilson, commander of the 44th ESB, said the primary focus of the semiannual field training exercise is to prepare Soldiers and teams for upcoming missions.

"This exercise just gives me opportunity, without having actual customers, that we can train and validate our teams," Wilson said. "Validating my teams allows them to be ready in an expeditionary mindset, ready to deploy and support the warfighter."

Wilson said one training goal for the exercise was to increase proficiency in beyond line of sight communications systems, including the Tropospheric Scatter Communications System and Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal.

"We're trying to validate those and have more tools in our kitbag, so to speak," Wilson said.

Sgt. Reginald Clinton, Tropo operator and maintainer assigned to Company C, 44th ESB, led a team trying to establish communications between two Tropo systems 59 miles (95 kilometers) apart.

"We're trying to pass data between the two Tropos that would allow data and voice communications," Clinton said.

Systems such as the Tropo provide a redundant source of communications and give commanders more options in the field.

Command Sgt. Maj. Marcus Jones, 44th ESB, said Fearless Elk was an opportunity to train on some basic Soldier skills such as deployment preparation and fieldcraft, as well as the proper installment of communications equipment and assemblages.

"We have to train on the basics of our craft before we actually support customers to enable them to command and control and complete their mission," Jones said.

Jones said the exercise was an excellent leader development opportunity for junior noncommissioned officers, a view shared by Sgt. Conan Nettles of Company C, 44th ESB.

"You get to know a lot about yourself as a leader, and a lot about your Soldiers as a person," Nettles said of the training.

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5th Signal Command's mission is to build, operate and defend network capabilities to enable mission command and create tactical, operational, and strategic flexibility for Army, Joint and Multinational forces in the EUCOM and AFRICOM areas of responsibility.