FORT DRUM, N.Y., March 16, 2011 -- Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard's Yonkers-based 101st Signal Battalion are now ready to provide Army leaders with the latest in high-tech communications technology.
To prepare for a scheduled 2012 deployment to Afghanistan the battalion, which also has units in Poughkeepsie and Orangeburg, has received a $100 million communications system know as WIN-T, which stands for Warfighter Information Network Tactical.
"WIN-T is the primary state-of-the-art, satellite-based, communication equipment used by units and commanders on the battlefield," said Lt. Col. Greg W. Dreisbach, the 101st Battalion commander.
"The equipment provides that secure and non-secure voice, internet, and data communication link that units require in order to communicate with one another throughout the battlespace," added Dreisbach.
The WIN-T system provides the Army with more bandwidth to send all types of information -- voice and data about terrain, fires and logistics -- down to lower tactical levels. It allows commanders to tie into the Army Battle Command system so they can make more flexible battlefield decisions.
In the mountains of Afghanistan the satellite uplink and downlink systems are especially vital.
Using that high-tech gear takes training, and the battalion soldiers started that process March 16, at the New York State Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site at Fort Drum, N.Y.
"With a change of equipment, we are essentially starting from scratch," said Spc. Nathan Marshall, a signal Soldier with the 101st. "We have to learn how to set up the equipment, process the information, and fix any problems we encounter."
WIN-T training at the Fort Drum Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site is comprised of two parts, one-third classroom and more importantly, two-thirds hands-on instruction.
"The hands-on training is what we get excited about," Marshall said. "It's very encouraging being motivated to practice what we will do overseas."
When the 101st deploys next year, the Soldiers will most likely find themselves separated into individual communication centers throughout their assigned battlespace. It is this possibility that makes the reality-based, hands on training they are receiving here at MATES all the more important.
"The Soldiers train on all of the equipment using live satellite access," said Capt. Justin Staubach, a systems engineer assigned to the 101st Signal Battalion. "Using the equipment as we will in the field is essential to preparing for the deployment. Once they are in the field, they might not have someone there to help them out."
The realistic training concept at the Fort Drum Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site facility allows the Soldiers to also train and communicate with all the components of WIN-T.
"Seeing the systems work together gives them the actual experience of what they will do in the field," said Staff Sgt. Tyrene Lesane, the Readiness noncommissioned officer for the 101st Signal Battalion. "We see the big picture of what we are really doing out there. Our communications is what help keep Soldiers on the ground safe."