CINCU, Romania -- The 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 11th Signal Brigade, recently deployed from Fort Bliss, Texas to Romania and Bulgaria to augment 2nd Theater Signal Brigade with additional tactical signal assets and capability for exercise Saber Guardian 17.

Exercise Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. Army Europe-led, multinational exercise, will take place in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania July 11-20, 2017. SG17 is larger in both scale and scope over its predecessors. Approximately 25,000 service members from 30 allied and partner nations will take part, and the exercise highlights participant deterrence capabilities, specifically the ability to mass forces at any given time anywhere in Europe.

Lt. Col. Nicole Vinson, commander of the 86th Expeditionary Signal Bn., said since 2011 the battalion has been focused on testing and evaluating new equipment for the Army, supporting more than a dozen Network Integration Evaluations (NIE) and Army Warfighting Assessments (AWA). She said the deployment for Saber Guardian 17 allows the battalion an opportunity to test its readiness and to refocus on its primary mission of being "expeditionary."

"Over the last six months, the TIGERS have worked extremely hard to transition the battalion from its NIE static support missions to being a deployable expeditionary signal battalion. We are able to deploy all of our assets and demonstrate the additional capabilities the battalion can bring as a complete package rather than as separate companies," Vinson said in a July 1 email.

For Saber Guardian 17, the battalion headquarters and one company are at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, and another company is at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania. Additionally, the battalion has a company deployed to Kuwait and Iraq supporting Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR).

"With Saber Guardian and our deployment to OIR, we want to highlight the capabilities of an expeditionary signal battalion. We are able to deploy the entire battalion and support a multitude of joint and multinational partners on two continents in seven different countries," Vinson said.

Capt. Ian Kinsey, commander of Charlie Company, 86th Expeditionary Signal Bn., said his company went through an intense mission training program to prepare for Saber Guardian 17, including day and night certifications at the platoon, company and battalion levels. After all the preparation and deployment, Kinsey said he looks forward to the training he and his Soldiers will receive at Saber Guardian 17.

"There's nothing like doing the real thing. Out here we're actually supporting people, we have a 24-hour requirement to different people in different areas. Out here, you're in the game," Kinsey said June 29 at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base.

Vinson said while most of the battalion's Soldiers have not deployed or participated in an exercise outside of Fort Bliss, Saber Guardian 17 provides an opportunity to empower junior leaders as they operate remotely in small teams across Romania and Bulgaria.

"Sergeants and specialists lead our teams and they deploy out to remote locations and operate on their own. We implemented a training strategy to facilitate this level of trust and Saber Guardian provides the opportunity for these teams to demonstrate their capabilities," Vinson said.

Kinsey said his company will provide U.S and Army Coalition Mission Environment networks to U.S. Army Armor, Air Defense and Medical units in three locations across Romania during Saber Guardian 17.

"That's what this kind of exercise really stresses -- the ability to work in a decentralized environment and use discipline and initiative to accomplish the mission," Kinsey said.

Spc. Karen Bustillos is a cable systems installer-maintainer and part of a team from Charlie Company, 86th Expeditionary Signal Bn. providing communications support to the 30th Medical Brigade in Cincu. She said the training and mission at Saber Guardian 17 are teaching the battalion to being expeditionary again.

"We're out here supporting units, coming up on the network, and gaining the experience of doing your job," Bustillos said.

Vinson noted a similar positive effect across the battalion.

"Saber Guardian has re-energized the battalion and has set us on a path to refine the tactics, techniques and processes that allow us to deploy worldwide to provide communication support at moment's notice," Vinson said.

Kinsey highlighted the importance of being in the Black Sea area and working with NATO allies and partners.

"We're proud to be out here to support Saber Guardian, to deter foreign aggression and assure our NATO allies that we'll always be here when they need us," Kinsey 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.