FORT GORDON, GA. -- U.S. Army Soldiers of the 51st Expeditionary Signal Battalion (ESB), 35th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade participated in Exercise Roving Sands 18. Soldiers taking part in Roving Sands 18 are "deploying" to Fort Bliss to be tested in a real-world, expeditionary type scenario as forces and equipment flow into "theater" via air and rail movement.
Fort Bliss units conducted Reception, Staging, Onward-movement and Integrations operations prior to executing their missions. The Soldiers of the 51st ESB prepared for this exercise by deploying their signal assemblages in the battalion motor pool and conducting communications exercises to ensure that all equipment was working properly before departing Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Roving Sands is a 3-week joint air training exercise involving U.S. and coalition troops and aircraft to practice joint air defense interoperability and incorporate lessons learned from overseas operations. Exercise Roving Sands is an event held by the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command's (AAMDC), deigned annually to test its Soldiers and equipment in a dynamic multiphase training environment. The 51st ESB provided the tactical network essential for mission command of the 32nd's (AAMDC) Theatre High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries.
Roving Sands has been an exercise since 1989 to 2005 and after a 13-year hiatus has been revived and is the world's largest air and missile defense exercise. The exercise focuses on Joint Theater Air and Missile Defense and Joint Tactical Air Operations while integrating Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps command and control nodes and associated air and missile defense systems.
The size of this exercise allowed the leaders of the 51st ESB to practice large scale deployment operations. All of the rolling stock and signal equipment traveled from JBLM to Fort Bliss via line haul, requiring each piece to pass through inspections and weigh-ins. The Soldiers and leaders travelled by air from McChord Air Base to Fort Bliss, requiring two charter planes to move all personnel.
After arriving in Fort Bliss, Soldiers from the 51st ESB went to work setting up their equipment and establishing connections during the pre-exercise communications exercise (COMMEX). This enabled team integration with the supported unit commands at brigade level as well as down to the supported battalions prior to the commencement of the exercise. This also served as an opportunity to test and validate all command control and mission command systems across the various units. Each signal team and the unit they supported jumped locations multiple times to replicate a mobile battlefield and enabled commanders the opportunity to better assess company mission essential tasks.
A large contingent of 51st Expeditionary Signal Battalion's equipment assemblages fielded were the Joint Network Nodes (JNNs) and Single Shelter Switches (SSSs) that are a core component of the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T). WIN-T is the Army's current and future tactical communications network backbone, delivering seamless, assured mission command, advanced communications and a comprehensive common operating picture in support of joint, coalition and civil missions worldwide. As part of the Army's "ONE TACTICAL NETWORK," WIN-T Increment 1 establishes an at-the-halt network backbone that provides the full range of data, voice and video communications to command posts at the battalion and above echelons, using both line-of-sight (LOS) and beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) communications nodes.
A smaller equipment assemblage fielded during the exercise was the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network/Non-secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR/NIPR) Access Point (SNAP) ground satellite terminals. These SNAP terminals are fielded to augment current network capabilities to extend network access to company and team level. This non-program of record system bridges gaps in C4ISR created by rugged-expansive terrain and sparse infrastructure by deploying these transportable commercial-off-the-shelf Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite terminals, which can deploy more quickly than larger satellite terminals.
SNAPs are designed to provide satellite communications to small units at remote forward operating bases where they are unable to use terrestrial radios due to issues with terrain or distance. They provide access to the tactical and strategic networks for mission command, calls for fire, Medevac and information exchange. SNAPs are a key communications component for units, providing secure beyond-line-of-sight communications at the company level and below.
145 Soldiers and 112 pieces of rolling stock comprised the total force committed by the 51st ESB to Exercise Roving Sands. This accounts for roughly two thirds of the entire battalion, making this support request the largest the 51st has conducted in recent history.
The size of this exercise has allowed the leaders of the 51st ESB to practice large scale deployment operations. All of the rolling stock and signal equipment traveled from Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington to Fort Bliss, Texas by line haul, requiring each piece to pass through inspections and weigh-ins.
"Roving Sands was a great opportunity to test the expeditionary capacity of the battalion to deploy in support of other exercises," said Maj. Jeremey J. Fox, executive officer, 51st ESB. "Coming from Washington all the way to Texas, it's a great exercise for our company-level leaders -- especially the company executive officers and platoon leaders to plan a deployment of troops and equipment."
The 35th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade has the mission to rapidly deploy worldwide to provide and protect Expeditionary C4 Systems and Networks to Army Service Component Commanders and Combatant Commanders, as well as Joint Task Force and Coalition Headquarters in order to enable joint and combined battle command across the full spectrum of network centric operations and warfare.