NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria -- U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion are providing communications and network support to a Bulgarian-led multinational brigade at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, enabling a command post exercise as part of 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.
The 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 11th Signal Brigade, recently deployed from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Romania and Bulgaria to augment the 2nd Theater Signal Brigade with additional tactical signal assets and capability for exercise Saber Guardian 17.
The battalion is using a Command Post Node, or CPN, to provide voice and data over Army Coalition Mission Environment, or ACME, network to the Bulgarian Army's 61st Mechanized Brigade. The brigade is serving as the headquarters for a multinational brigade of seven countries participating in a command post exercise, or CPX, to improve staff coordination and processes.
"For the CPX, the communications support is critical -- without it, we can't work or exchange information between staff sections," said Maj. Stanimir Petrov, the G-6 Communications and Information Management officer assigned to the 61st Mechanized Bde.
In addition to ACME network, the 86th Expeditionary Signal Bn. is providing helpdesk and troubleshooting support to the 61st Mechanized Bde. Capt. Dhoncheer Garcia, the Network Operations (NETOPS) officer in charge assigned to the 86th Expeditionary Signal Bn., said there has been a good working relationship between the two units.
"There's been good communication between our network operation here and their G-6. They always inform us what's going on with their system on a daily basis," Garcia said.
He said there were some interoperability challenges at first with the Bulgarians learning new software and systems, but said they were able to quickly adapt and tailor everything to meet their needs for the CPX.
Since 2011 the 86th Expeditionary Signal Bn. 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). Lt. Col. Nicole Vinson, commander of the 86th Expeditionary Signal Bn., said Saber Guardian 17 has allowed the battalion to demonstrate the full range of capabilities it can bring to a fight.
"The Soldiers are able to work side by side with our allies and partners expanding the ACME network improving our interoperability," Vinson said.
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.