By Capt. Robert N Durr (1st ID)July 14, 2016
USAG Yongsan -- Soldiers from A Company, 304th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade honed their skills during a week-long digital gunnery exercise at North Star Range from July 11-15. The exercise tested the soldiers' abilities to rapidly provide communications networks to the warfighters they support.
Capt. Greg Thomas, A Company commander, 304th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade said the purpose of training soldiers in a realistic tactical environment is readiness.
"As a tactical communications backbone for the warfighter, we need to be ready, always ready to provide that support," Thomas said. "We do that through training in austere conditions, knowing what maneuver commanders need in the field and being able to provide that tactical communications when required to enable mission command."
To qualify during the exercise teams of four soldiers must successfully install, validate and maintain three communications systems: Command Post Nodes, Joint Network Nodes and SIPR/NIPR Access Points.
"Conducting effective training while operating and maintaining the network is a challenge. Battalion digital gunnery gives us the edge we need to ready," Thomas said. "We have some of the best NCOs I've seen in the Army. They're out there leading by example, leading from the front. Every time the soldiers are there, they're right there with them. They set the standard."
A Company's 1st Platoon Leader, 2nd Lt. Evan Miller said the soldiers in his platoon prefer a field training environment because it is a more realistic representation of their mission.
"They're going to roll out to different environments by themselves as teams and they're going to have to troubleshoot their own issues with their organic units, so forcing them to do that in a field environment is pretty good training," Miller said.
A Company's mission, Miller said, is to rapidly deploy, set up command posts and safely maintain communications and repair any network issues to help enable mission command for the warfighter.
"My platoon deployed Monday morning to validate the teams on the signal equipment, to ensure we can accomplish the mission that we were given and to troubleshoot any issues that we run into," Miller said.
The 304th ESB Battalion standard for any 4-person team is 90 minutes but Miller said some of the teams in his platoon have clocked in times less than 30 minutes.
"I am very impressed with the way my team is performing," Miller said. "We worked late. We worked hard. They came out and they destroyed the battalion standard."
Training new soldiers has been a big part of the exercise as well as getting ready for the upcoming Ulchi Freedom Guardian Miller said.
"We were able to get a lot of the new soldiers out here to show them how it's done and how you set up in the field," Miller said. "They need to be able to react quickly and this helps them react quickly and trains them how they're going to fight."
As part of a temporary duty assignment, Sgt. Cody Weber, a Multi Transmission Operator/Maintainer with the 307th Expeditionary Signal Battalion from USAG-Hawaii is training alongside soldiers with the 304th ESB. He was one of 46 soldiers attached to the 304th ESB as part of a 9-month TDY rotation to train for the Key Resolve 2016 and UFG exercises.
"The key to my success is everybody that works around me," Weber said. "We work as team and I believe teamwork is everything."
Weber said his team's hard work leading up to the exercise has paid off.
"My section, I take a lot of pride in. I'd like to say this is probably one of the best I've ever worked with," Weber said. "Every year we're more technically sound as the Army and as a unit. I have a lot of great NCOs that train their soldiers daily."
Working together with the 304th ESB has given Weber and his platoon a great opportunity to train in and has been mutually beneficial he said.
"Our platoon has come here and left a thumbprint on 304th and that's what we want to leave with," Weber said.