FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and pilots from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, became the first Soldiers in the operational Army to sling load the Tactical Command Node-Light last week. This training was done in preparation for the brigade's upcoming rotation as part of the Network Integration Exercise at Fort Bliss, Texas, in July. At NIE, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team will validate new systems that will be fielded to the Army for future mission sets.
"The purpose of the training was to validate the TCN-Light in preparation for the sling load testing of the system at NIE," said Master Sgt. Jarrod Gozy, support operations noncommissioned officer in charge, 526th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne. "Sling loading the TCN-Light under field conditions is one of our validation tasks. This is the first time the system has sling loaded by a warfighter; we're out here to ensure our techniques for transporting the system make operational and tactical sense."
The TCN provides satellite and line-of-sight network connectivity, both on-the-move in a convoy, at the quick halt, and to the stationary command post, enabling mission command and advanced communications as part of the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical. WIN-T enables mission command, communications and situational awareness through it systems.
Great care was taken to ensure that the rigging of the vehicle was done correctly. All personnel who rigged and inspected the load were given advanced training and Pathfinders from the Sabalauski Air Assault School, where Soldiers throughout the 101st Airborne Division come to learn the basics of air assault operations, were also present.
"This training was done with personnel who graduated our recent sling load master qualification course," said Gozy. "The pilots who flew today are also the same ones that will be with us at NIE, so this is really helpful in building those work relationships."
As the U.S. Army's only air assault division, the 101st is trained and equipped to conduct operations to rapidly move around the battlefield. The TCN-Light was designed to be used by light infantry and rapidly deployable units. It was originally developed on five-ton Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles. Lite versions of the system, are integrated onto Humvees, which can be sling loaded from a helicopter for significantly increased agility and operational flexibility.
During the 2nd Brigade Combat Team's recent deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, they were required to set up expeditious locations and conduct operations in support of the Iraqi Security Forces that pushed the limits of their mission command systems. In one operation, Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team's artillery unit conducted an air assault operation into new firing position in order to provide more accurate fire support. Inserting their personnel, vehicles, and artillery pieces by utilizing aviation rotary assets and dropping them into position, the unit set up a fully functional fire base in the night without alerting the enemy. The TCN-Light's purpose is to further enhance the capabilities of Soldiers on those types of missions.
"The ability to move the communications platform anywhere on the battlefield gives us greater reach back for our Soldiers and prevents us from culminating because we're out running our communications capabilities," said Gozy. "In our recent deployment to Iraq when we were building tactical assembly areas and position areas for artillery, one of the issues was communication reach back. With this TCN-Light however, we can sling load it as part of the tactical action center or initial set up of a PAA/TAA and have full functionality. With the old TCN we're limited in our mobility and where we can choose our mission command nodes to be."
Other Soldiers who tested the equipment were also impressed by the new system. The importance of having a communications node that could be taken anywhere, anytime, wasn't lost on them.
"This definitely brings more versatility to our fighting force," said Staff Sgt. Arik Browning, a signal Soldier with 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne. "This [system] gives us more range and lethality since we can now transport it over terrain that the larger TCN system couldn't get through. The TCN is an integral part of the tactical operations center; if we can put this anywhere, we can put the TOC anywhere."