JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Soldiers assigned to the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade participated in a multi-week advanced communications training program centered on the new Integrated Tactical Network at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Aug. 17 to Sept. 3, 2020.
The Soldiers were trained and tested on their ability to operate on the ITN to include setting up a SCOUT and connecting to a satellite in order to conduct a secure voice call as well as use their combat net radio equipment to text message on both wide and narrow band connections via satellite, cell towers, internet, and high-frequency.
“An Advisor's primary weapon system in competition or in conflict is his radio,” 5th SFAB Commander Brig. Gen. Curtis Taylor, said. “Operating at the extreme tactical edge with our partners and allies requires that we are complete masters of our communications gear.”
At the SFAB, Advisors are expected to be experts in their craft, which is only achieved through repetition and realistic training. The SCOUT is the foundation system for the rest of the communications equipment in the SFAB inventory.
“There's a lot to like about the SCOUT,” said Capt. Sarah Holmes, C Company Commander, 5th Battalion, 5th SFAB. “It’s really light, you can pick it up and move it around as a 12-man team and you get the exact same capabilities as the old Command Post Networks or even Joint Network Nodes.”
The 5th SFAB’s communications specialists received extensive training with the network to begin assimilating the equipment for SFAB use. Next, they personally tailored a much shorter and more direct three-week training for non-communications Soldiers to train on the new network.
“The system is very scalable and flexible,” Holmes said. “Depending on where you are in the world you can set this network up and run secure communications through existing cell phone towers, internet, or even satellites.”
Holmes went on to explain that the same goes for the satellite and the high-frequency combat radio network connections.
As the 5th SFAB continues to prepare for future deployments across the Indo-Pacific region to build enduring partnerships and strengthen alliances, training on the ITN is just one of the many skill sets they must master.
“This course is designed to build that mastery and I have been impressed at how well our Soldiers have embraced this technical challenge,” Taylor said.
An SFAB is composed of many leading experts from multiple MOSs. Those experts are brought together for the purpose of deploying as 4 to 12-man teams which represent the U.S. military expertise of the Army in the form of advisors to partner nations.
“The core mission of an SFAB is to advise, support, liaise and assess,” said Sgt. Victor Batiz, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Security Forces Assistance Brigade. “We hope to add value to our partner nation’s defense forces, by embedding and training alongside them to build a curriculum and training criteria that strengthens the bonds between our nations.”
Up until last year, the majority of the Army’s communications networks were run on the Warfighter Information Network - Tactical, however, due to long wait times while replacing unserviceable equipment and because of recent advancements in technology, the Army has decided to find a new network to maintain mission readiness.
“As the Army pushes ahead to outpace the technological advancements of peer adversaries an adaptable network is key,” Holmes said.
The 5th SFAB will further validate these systems at Yakima Training Center this month during Exercise Vanguard Focus.