WIESBADEN, Germany -- Signal Soldiers from the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion conducted sling load and air operations training as part of 2nd Signal Brigade's Operation Forged Lightning deployment readiness exercise March 22-23, 2016 at the Grafenwoehr Training Area.

The training enhanced expeditionary capabilities by providing the unit an opportunity to facilitate a DRE III "shock event": alert, assembly, prep for deployment, deploy, execute training mission and redeploy the unit on short or no notice.

Lt. Col. Pete Wilson, commander of the 44th ESB, said the training enhanced readiness by exercising the "E" in expeditionary and demonstrated how the unit can provide a dynamic presence and tactical signal capability on the battlefield.

"It (the sling load training) allows us to test ways that we may be may be called upon in the future to get to a certain location. This, along with airlift and rail, are ways in which we make sure we're expeditionary and we can get to the right place and support the warfighter with communications," Wilson said.

The unit moved a Command Post Node (CPN) team from one location to another by sling loading two Humvees, a generator and a Satellite Transportable Terminal (STT) in single, dual and tandem load configurations underneath two CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade. After the equipment had been moved Soldiers on the ground set everything up, established a network connection and conducted tactical signal operations, validating their training readiness and equipment capabilities.

Sgt. Maj. Eliseo Torres, 44th ESB S-3 sergeant major, said the training exercised the unit's ability to provide communications support across the European theater of operations.

"This lets us know what our capabilities are right now as far as being able to conduct sling load operations, and then what we're going to look for in the future so we can continue on with the expeditionary mindset and be able to utilize our tactical assets anywhere, any time," Torres said.

The training also empowered junior leaders by enhancing the job skills and confidence of the CPN team members to conduct sling load operations in a potentially isolated and hostile environment.

Pfc. Kylee Rollins, a CPN operator in Bravo Company, 44th ESB, was the "hookup man" for the Humvee and generator tandem load. She said the sling load teams conducted several days of hands-on training in the unit motorpool bay using a crane and validating link counts and weight loading.

"We had people who have been to Air Assault School and were qualified help us figure out how to tape up the lights, reflectors and windshields and to brace everything for when it lands," Rollins said.

The sling load and air operations training was conducted as part of 2nd Signal Brigade's Operation Forged Lightning, a quarterly exercise focused on personnel readiness, deployment readiness, operating in degraded communications, and other mission essential tasks.

"The DRE III utilizing rotary wing aircraft is a great way to test our readiness and gain proficiency in a very perishable skill-set. Our Soldiers are always ready to provide communications, but now we're readily deployable by any means to include rotary wing, line-haul‎ and rail," said Col. Ed Buck Jr., commander of the 2nd Signal Brigade.

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5th Signal Command (Theater) builds, operates and defends 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.

2nd Signal Brigade builds, operates and defends Mission Command System and Networks in order to support unified action anytime, anywhere.