WIESBADEN, Germany -- The 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade, hosted a Rehearsal of Concept (ROC) drill May 15, 2017 in Landstuhl to coordinate and validate the unit's plan for tactical and strategic communications and network support for Saber Guardian 17.

Exercise Saber Guardian 17 is a U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe-led annual exercise taking place in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria in the summer of 2017. This exercise involves more than 25,000 service members from over 20 ally and partner nations. The largest of the Black Sea Region exercises, Saber Guardian 17 is a premier training event for U.S. Army Europe and participating nations that will build readiness and improve interoperability under a unified command, executing a full range of military missions to support the security and stability of the Black Sea Region.

Maj. Lauren Bell, 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn. S-3 Operations, Plans and Training officer in charge, said the purpose of the ROC drill was to give an overview of the battalion's plan to everyone who will be involved in Saber Guardian 17 from a Signal perspective, from senior leaders down to team chiefs.

"For us, fulfilling the role of a theater (network operations), it was important that all the units and all the stakeholders understood what the plan was, what the concept was," Bell said.

She said the battalion, with support from 2nd Theater Signal Bde., U.S. Army Europe G-6 Communications and Information Management, 21st Theater Sustainment Command and the 4th Infantry Division, will operate as the theater network operations, or NETOPS, for the exercise - a role normally performed at corps level. The "Lightning Ops" cell will give the 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn. the added capability and responsibility to monitor the Army Coalition Mission Environment network, provide network resolution, and service or escalate trouble tickets, all while providing tactical communications support to warfighters in the field.

"We started really working on Saber Guardian in November of last year with the initial requirements to figure out how we were going to be able to accomplish such a large mission while still supporting our other ongoing requirements," said Sgt. 1st Class Adam Dement, 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn. S-3 Operations, Plans and Training noncommissioned officer in charge. "It's a huge undertaking for the battalion," he said.

The 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn., the only expeditionary signal battalion in Europe, is currently providing tactical communications and support to U.S. Army Europe and its regionally allocated forces participating in Operation Atlantic Resolve, NATO's enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Poland and multinational exercises in Hohenfels, among other ongoing missions across the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of operation.

"There's been some challenges across the board such as how to plan for such a huge event conducted with so many key assets coming in as well as continuing to support missions such as Atlantic Resolve and Saber Junction," said 1st Lt. Marina Northup, 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn. S-3 Operations, Plans and Training plans officer.

To help fill the gap between ongoing missions and Saber Guardian 17 exercise support, 2nd Theater Signal Bde. will be augmented with Soldiers and equipment from the 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion from Fort Bliss, Texas, and several members of the South Carolina Nation Guard. Bell said there would be a total of 77 pieces of tactical communications equipment spread across five countries during the exercise.

"The biggest challenge is making sure the communications plan is synched with the maneuver plan for the exercise, making sure that we're in tune with the main effort," Bell said.

She said there were some details still to be worked out following the ROC drill, but overall the leadership was pleased with the plan.

"It's been a team effort. Everybody realizes that we have to pull together as a community to get through this, and it's going really well," Dement said.

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2nd Theater Signal Brigade conducts Department of Defense Information Network operations to enable mission command in support of U.S. Army, Joint and multinational operations throughout the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of operation.