WIESBADEN, Germany -- U.S. Army Signal Soldiers assigned to the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade, are providing critical communications and network support to U.S. forces and allied nations participating in exercise Allied Spirit VII in Hohenfels.

Approximately 3,700 participants from 13 nations are participating in exercise Allied Spirit VII at the 7th Army Training Command's Hohenfels Training Area in southeastern Germany from Oct. 30 to Nov. 22, 2017. Allied Spirit is a U.S. Army Europe-directed, 7ATC-conducted multinational exercise designed to develop and enhance NATO nations' readiness and ability to work together, and is unique in its ability to provide hands-on experience and testing of secure communications.

Capt. James Griffes, commander of Charlie Company, 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn., said seven signal teams are providing network connectivity to the multinational brigade headquarters led by Lithuania's "Griffin" Brigade, and to U.S. Army units and other nations participating in the exercise. He said the goal for his unit is to improve communications interoperability and build relationships with Soldiers from the other nations participating in Allied Spirit VII.

"If any incident happens in Europe, then we're not doing anything without our allies. Building those relationships, understanding and experience is invaluable," Griffes said.

Lt. Col. Adam Sanutti, commander of the 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn., also emphasized the importance of training with allies and partners to enhance readiness and interoperability.

"The more we train with our allies and partners, the more knowledgeable we are of each unit's capabilities, which strengthens our alliance," Sannutti said.

He described the exercise as a true leadership laboratory where teams led by junior noncommissioned officers must overcome challenges such as weather, fatigue, and language, cultural and equipment differences to deliver critical network and communications support.

"They quickly integrate into the supported unit's battle rhythm and educate our allies and partners on the capabilities they bring to the fight," Sannutti said of the signal teams.

Capt. Erlandas Kasperaeicius, the G-6 Communications and Information Management officer for Lithuania's "Griffin" Brigade, said the exercise has allowed him to gain experience and build contacts which will be invaluable when working with multinational forces on future missions and exercises.

"It was difficult at first to understand differences in equipment, but we quickly overcame those differences," Kasperaeicius said. "Knowing those systems might improve your ability to use them whenever you need them -- when you're on a mission, I am now familiar with what they are working with."

In addition to supporting exercise Allied Spirit VII, the 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn., the only permanently assigned 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, among other ongoing missions and exercises across the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of operation.

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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.