A small “pop-up” 25L (Cable Systems Installer-Maintainer) reclassification course for deploying Soldiers is being held at Fort Hunter Liggett, California from May 8 to June 7. This course is normally conducted at the High Tech Regional Training Site – Maintenance (HTRTS-M) located in Sacramento, California.
According to the HTRTS-M Commandant, Major Sean Taylor, “We chose Fort Hunter Liggett to conduct this one-time training, as opposed to where we normally teach in Sacramento, because of the ability to restrict the students to an area due to the current COVID-19 environment.”
Using plans and lessons learned from Installations that have resumed large-scale training, this pop-up course gives the Garrison an opportunity to test how support services can be provided with COVID-19 preventive measures in place.
“The safety of our community and the training audience is of utmost concern to me, so it is critical that we get things right before opening up the post for larger training activities,” said Fort Hunter Liggett Garrison Commander, Colonel Charles Bell.
Three instructors from HTRTS-M provide the training, which includes 240 academic hours. The instructors, along with the eight students, were tested for COVID-19 at Mee Memorial Hospital in King City prior to arrival, and isolated in the Operational Readiness Training Complex (ORTC) for 72 hours before training started.
Traveling from their home station to Fort Hunter Liggett was not challenging for the Soldiers. “I got a row to myself on the plane, and the bus ride was comfortable,” said Specialist Adan Garcia, 820th Tactical Installation Network Enhanced Company (TIN-E) based in Seagoville, Texas.
The Garrison acquired and installed the telephone poles and above-ground vault trainers (also known as manholes) required for the course, provided catered meals, barracks, and the coordination of COVID-19 testing at Mee Memorial Hospital.
Course Instructor, Master Sergeant Alan J. Shanahan, said that the course content for active 25L Advanced Individual Training (AIT) conducted at Fort Gordon by the Signal Center of Excellence, and the HTRTS-M re-class training are almost identical. The distinction is that the re-class course is shorter, more intense and faster paced, and can pose challenges to some.
“Often when climbing poles, students experience anxiety, fear, and exhilaration. These emotions may cause increased heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. Any one of these situations is dangerous when the classroom is 30 feet up,” said Shanahan. In addition, the more "seasoned" students find it challenging to climb up and down the telephone poles and into underground chambers.
COVID-19 also poses unique challenges during training. “We had to develop a strong awareness of distancing, bodily fluids control, sanitation procedures, and constant hand-washing,” said Shanahan. He also said that the use of masks blurs safety goggles, and makes “communicating at less than a yell difficult,” so when social distancing is possible, students are allowed to remove their face masks.
“The accelerated pace of the class makes it hard for active listening, but having the food delivered is a perk,” said Specialist Benjamin Bingham, also with the 820th Signal Company (TIN).
Students in the 25L military occupational specialty (MOS) are primarily responsible for the maintenance of cable/wire communications systems, communication security devices and other associated equipment. Some of the specific tasks they learn include the installation, troubleshooting, and maintenance of tactical and commercial cable systems, telecommunications equipment, and alarm/fire-suppression systems. The MOS/field requires Soldiers to work in confined spaces such as underground vaults and manholes, or high on a utility pole, and is more physically demanding than other communications MOS's.
Communications is a key component to success on the battlefield. “It is undeniable that the lineman is now, and will continue to be, an integral part of the ‘shoot, move, communicate’ formula for success,” said Shanahan.
One of the many benefits of being an Army Reserve Soldier is that the skills acquired are transferable to the civilian sector. During this course students learn skills that prepare them for their Electronic Technicians Association (ETA) Fiber Optics Technician (FOT) certification.
“These are valuable civilian certifications that demonstrate their skill level. The comparable vocation in the civilian sector is Telecom Technician,” said Brian Parrotte, HTRTS-M Executive Officer. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/), the civilian lineman/installer occupation is expected to grow four percent over the next eight years.
HTRTS-M is the only training location for the 25L course and falls under 5th Brigade, 102nd Training Division-Maneuver Support. The 102nd TD is a generating force executing the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command foundational capabilities of building and improving readiness by providing mission-critical, combat-ready Soldiers to the Army and Joint Warfighter that are trained, competent, lethal, and globally responsive to deter conflicts, protect national interests, and win our Nation’s wars.