By Capt. Robert TaylorFebruary 20, 2019
BOISE, Idaho - The 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team signal Soldiers conducted signal gunnery Feb. 5-10 on Gowen Field and in the Orchard Combat Training Center to train signal Soldiers on their communication platforms in a challenging environment.
"Information is a weapon we yield," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jerred Edgar, the brigade's network defense chief. "Our communication platforms bring the messages that put rounds on target."
Approximately 100 signal Soldiers from each of the 116th CBCT's seven battalions and the Idaho Army National Guard's 1-183rd Aviation Battalion who hold six signal military occupational specialties participated in the exercise. The training audience focused on the junior leader and crew proficiencies.
The training was planned and executed by Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the brigade's communications section to accommodate the brigade's training schedule prior to its upcoming rotation at the National Training Center.
The exercise was an expansion of last year's signal gunnery, the first in the brigade's history. Edgar developed the concept of "signal gunnery" over two years ago after not being able to find any doctrine regarding crew-level training in the Army to mirror the kind of training line units are familiar with.
This year saw the addition of the 1-183rd Aviation Battalion and incorporated battalion signal officers. Four officers were assigned crews in a manner comparable to their organic unit's structure. They had to plan, track, maneuver and synchronize their crews through their communication platforms.
"We typically are consolidated at one location," said Capt. Kenneth McNamara, battalion signal officer. "It is different having them far away. It creates a greater challenge for command and control."
This year's training was conducted during extremely cold weather, which Edgar said provided an excellent training environment for developing basic Soldier skills. Crew leaders learned how to operate in cold weather, which included rotating Soldiers on tasks to ensure their Soldiers stay healthy and their mission objectives are achieved.
"It's very difficult, especially with the wind gusts and cold temperatures," said Spc. Christopher Payne, a joint network node operator. "Things just take more time because of cold weather gear. Sometimes we just sucked it up and removed our gloves to get the job done."
The five-day training event gave Soldiers the chance to train on their assigned equipment and practice setting it up quickly. During the two-day field exercise, crews jumped four times, including twice at night.
"It's good to see the growth and development from last year, I definitely feel more confident with my equipment," Payne said.
The brigade will participate in a National Training Center rotation in May and June to prepare for a possible follow on a real-world mission in 2020. NTC, located at Fort Irwin, California, is one of the Army's largest training centers and allows the brigade to conduct combat operations against a simulated enemy force.