Four teams from A Company, 50th Expeditionary Signal Battalion-Enhanced participated in exercise Dragon Lifeline from August 5th to August 9th, 2019. This exercise was organized by 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command (3rd ESC) to be their annual culminating training event.
Dragon Lifeline took place in three main locations, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Fort Bragg, and Joint Base Charleston. A Company only operated at Fort Bragg and Joint Base Charleston, where 3rd ESC's main efforts of the exercise were located. Their training was based on validating their ability to rapidly deploy and transport equipment through railway, vessel and convoy operations. The communicator's task was to provide Non-Secure (NIPR), Secure (SIPR) Internet Protocol Routing, and Video Teleconference (VTC) capabilities to the supported battalions enabling them to have mission command between all locations involved.
The preparation for this exercise was the key for providing successful communications during the mission. The teams conducted an internal communications exercise to ensure that each node was able to pull services over Satellite Communications (SATCOM). When the teams validated their services they were diligent in working with the supported unit to have them connect user devices such as phones or laptops to prevent any connection issues when they arrived at their respective sites during the mission. The preparation process for these teams was nearly three weeks long, preparing their vehicles for the 200 mile convoy, checking their personal gear, and validating their communications equipment. Staff Sgt. Murray the Section Sergeant and NCOIC for the mission said "We have done a lot of preparation for this mission, more than usual, but because of the long movement and scale of the mission, it is good to ensure that we are ready to execute".
The mission started with a 0300 phone call that initiated a Deployment Readiness Exercise (DRE) for all units participating in Dragon Lifeline. After receiving the call they had 2 hours to be in formation and ready to go. The teams were prepared and had accountability of all personnel and their equipment by 0500 and departed for Charleston shortly after.
Upon arrival the teams set up quickly and were able to provide communications with in an hour. The Soldiers had put in the time during mission preparation which made the execution easier. During the exercise services were provided to subordinate battalions within 3rd ESC where Team 5014 led by SGT Bloomingdale provided services to the Commanding General of 3rd ESC and 3rd ESC's HHC battalion.
Over the course of the five days the Soldiers from A Company were able to support multiple VTC meetings for the Commanding General and supported units. Leaders from 3rd ESC gave praise to the teams for their hard work and technical knowledge that allowed the team to rapidly trouble shoot issues that arose during the mission. The teams also set up two Terrestrial Transmission Line Of Sight (TRILOS) masts, which provided teams a redundant means to supplying NIPR and SIPR services if their SATCOM connection went down. SPC Gant, the Team Chief for 5016, said "I learned how to use the TRILOS during our mission preparation, and I realized on mission that it is a necessary asset to have as a contingency for providing communications".
The redeployment plan added more complexity and excitement to the exercise. Two of the teams in Charleston were scheduled to convoy back to Fort Bragg while the third team was slotted to fly back by strategic air with their vehicle and equipment. The team flying was also lead by SGT Bloomingdale who said "Flying back strategic air was great, it isn't often that we get this training opportunity, and it is an excellent experience for the younger Soldiers".
The mission came to a close August 9th and the teams were relieved. Their team work and determination lead to their mission success. The complexity of this exercise provided great training to the teams on far more than just training on their equipment. The intricacy of this mission and the training received will help each of these teams and the company progress in future operations.