By Staff Sgt. Brian Cline, 5th Signal Command (Theater)July 17, 2017
RAMNICU VALCEA, Romania -- U.S. Army Signal Soldiers assigned to the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade, found an innovative solution to provide a critical communications and network link to the 648th Maneuver Enhancement Battalion, Georgia National Guard, enabling mission command for a river crossing during exercise Saber Guardian 17, July 16-18, 2017.
The exercise is a U.S. Army Europe-led, multinational exercise taking place from July 11-20, 2017. Approximately 25,000 service members from 30 allied and partner nations will take part to highlight participant deterrence capabilities, specifically the ability to mass forces at any given time anywhere in Europe.
The mission of a MEB is to provide critical maneuver support to the force commander, normally at the division level, and can manage up to seven battalions. For Saber Guardian 17, the 648th MEB will provide command and control for units participating in the day and night river crossing near Ramnicu Valcea.
To enable mission command for the river crossings, Soldiers from Alpha Company, 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn., 2nd Theater Signal Bde., are tasked to provide voice and data over U.S. and Army Coalition Mission Environment, or ACME, to the 648th MEB's main tactical operations center (TOC) and a forward command post near the actual crossing sites.
"Tonight we are providing tactical communications to the forward command presence when 648th MEB conducts their river crossing," said Sgt. Rogelio Hercules, the Network Operations noncommissioned officer in charge.
Hercules explained that the 648th MEB was simulating a tactical insertion during the river crossing, requiring it to establish another layer of command and control, a forward command post, to their existing structure.
"Our job is to implement an addition to our network," he said.
While it sounds easy, it's not. The Soldiers needed to find a way to establish a line-of-sight shot between the 648th MEB's two command posts 8 kilometers (4.97 miles) apart and through a dense urban area. The company's TOC was a hive of activity as Soldiers planned how to incorporate another user group into the network. After working through the day setting up dedicated antennas, configuring routers and running wires, the 648th MEB forward command post was ready to connect to the network just as the sun was setting.
"The training really forced us to practice finding innovative solutions to our supported unit's issues," said Capt. John Maham, commander of Alpha Company, 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn.
Linking the two command posts allows to the 648th MEB to exchange voice and data, including graphics, needed to build a Common Operating Picture and provide effective mission command of the river crossings.
"The realistic environment has really tested us in many ways. We get to take the lessons we learned here and really prepare for our next mission," Maham 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.