WIESBADEN, Germany -- U.S. Army Signal Soldiers assigned to the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade, are testing new tactics, techniques and procedures for providing communications and network support to the multinational exercise Allied Spirit VIII at the Hohenfels Training Area.
Charlie Company, 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn., moved their company Network Operations, or NETOPS, cell forward about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Grafenwoehr to Hohenfels to support the exercise, and sent a heavy assemblage, a Single Shelter Switch, or SSS, into the "box" to support a large number of users.
"Before this, we normally just focused on our own assemblages. Here, (Joint Multinational Readiness Center) gave us the ability to monitor, track, troubleshoot and help with any other (Joint Multinational Exercise network) issues for the entire exercise," said Capt. James Griffes, commander of C Co, 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn.
The company NETOPS augmented the JMRC S-6 Communications and Information Management section to serve as the NETOPS for the entire exercise, monitoring and troubleshooting any issues with the Non-secure Internet Protocol Router, or NIPR; Secure Internet Protocol Router, or SIPR; and Joint Multinational Exercise, or JMEX, networks or any of the 14 assemblages supporting Allied Spirit VIII.
"It has been a real benefit having the Charlie Company, 44th (Expeditionary Signal Bn.) NETOPS co-located with us, due to the fact that they can monitor other systems that we cannot. It's an additional layer of troubleshooting," said Master Sgt. Almondo Markham, the JMRC S-6 noncommissioned officer in charge.
Griffes said having his Soldiers co-located with the JMRC S-6 section allowed them to interface more quickly and effectively with the Enterprise SATCOM Gateway Landstuhl, the 2nd Theater Signal Bde., or other units to resolve any exercise-related issues.
1st Lt. Shaun Lawson, C Co., 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn. NETOPS officer in charge, said having subject matter experts on the ground at Hohenfels helped increase the speed with which issues were resolved from days to hours.
"The team that we have out here was hand-picked for this reason -- we've been able to solve every issue at our level," Lawson said.
Griffes said the unit applied lessons learned from having its company NETOPS forward during exercise Saber Guardian 17 last summer in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, and during the reception, staging and onward movement of Regionally Allocated Forces last fall in Poland, to provide realistic training and support to units participating in Allied Spirit VIII.
"This is very realistic training, and I think it's probably the best place for NETOPS to get training as opposed to just sitting back and waiting for something to happen," Griffes said.
For the first time, C Co., 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn. deployed a Single Shelter Switch, or SSS, into the "box" to support the exercise. The SSS supported 138 users at the Polish 12th Mechanized Brigade headquarters, the multinational brigade headquarters for the exercise.
Sgt. Cody Anderson, assigned to C Co., 44th Expeditionary Signal Bn., said there were some language barriers when working with the Polish Signal Soldiers, but described them as very knowledgeable and technically competent.
"They were able to communicate through switches and routers," Anderson said.
Allied Spirit is a U.S. Army Europe-directed, 7th Army Training Command-conducted, multinational exercise series designed to develop and enhance NATO and key partner's interoperability and readiness. Approximately 4,100 participants from 10 nations will take part in exercise Allied Spirit VIII at the 7th Army Training Command's Hohenfels Training Area in southeastern Germany, Jan. 15-Feb. 5, 2018.
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.