By Sgt. Lewis M. HilburnJune 6, 2008
FOB NORMANDY, Iraq (TF-Thunderbird) - Not far from the Iranian border lies Forward Operating Base Normandy. This is where the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Striker Cavalry Regiment (SCR) regularly patrols the outlying areas. Among these road warriors are four Signaleers helping them complete their everyday mission.
The "Team Wolfpack" as they are called is with the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, which is part of Task Force Thunderbird. The team supports the 3-2 SCR with signal support which includes secure and nonsecure internet protocol (SIPR/ NIPR).
Sgt. Lindsey Knowles, team chief of "Team Wolfpack," said it was challenge coming to a cavalry squadron.
"One of the hardest things to do is move with a cavalry unit because we are the last one to tear down our equipment because the commander needs to be able to send and receive reports up until the very last minute," Knowles said. "This puts additional strain on us because Soldiers lives are on the lines if we can't get our systems up and working so the commander can receive reports and intelligence. We have definitely stepped up to the plate and shown this unit we can get the job done."
The team and the unit had to adjust to working with each other.
"They didn't know how to act and how to talk to us," Knowles said. "Initially, we were in a corner of the building because that was the only space they had available. We would be in there working and they would just look at us in the corner. Eventually, things became more comfortable and we all work very well together. I would say it is a really good working relationship."
Some of the team's support is not signal related. Whenever the unit heads out on humanitarian relief missions, these missions include medical aid, school supplies and food; the Signaleers assist them in searching local nationals as they come through the lines. In keeping with local customs and traditions the men can only search men and women search women. Having this capability greatly assists the 3-2 SCR.
Maj. Mark Read, squadron executive officer, said the signal team provides them with a great asset in signal communications.
"They provide us with tactical SIPR and NIPR, which helps us conduct our everyday missions," he said. When the squadron got permission for the signal team to assist them on the humanitarian aid missions, Read said "Team Wolfpack" was very excited.
"We trained them up on what they need to do when searching women," Read explained. "One of the unique things we have to deal with this in environment, particularly the Arab culture, is dealing with women out in the towns and villages. Communicating with them isn't a problem because we have interpreters. If we have to search them, we need female Soldiers to help. We are an infantry squadron so we don't have women as an integral part of our organization. They are important in bridging the cultural gap and challenges that we face."
Spc. Jahaira Best, a signal operator analyst, said it was very interesting to switch from a signal Soldier and perform duties of an infantry Soldier.
"You know the Army trains us first to be an infantry Soldier and for me to get out of my element was a welcome change," Best said. "At first, I was hesitant because of the obvious danger factor. I had to brush up on my tactical skills and be mindful of our battle buddies and the dangers we are surrounded by. Awareness is very important."
Best recalls the second humanitarian mission she assisted the unit with.
"The second mission I went on was for medical aid," Best said. "Sgt. Knowles and I were female searchers. I felt bad because some of the children would cry as we would search them. They asked why are we searching them and the mothers would have to tell them that it is okay and to let us do our job. Once we got into the motion of searching females and children it seemed as if the line wasn't going to stop, but by the end of the day I was happy that the men, women and children were able to get all the medical attention they needed."
"At the end of the day we feel good about ourselves knowing that we are contributing to the mission and helping the Iraqi people," said Knowles.
The members of "Team Wolfpack" are not the only women on FOB Normandy. There are also mechanics, cooks, intelligence and laundry and bath Soldiers. The women on this FOB, according to Read, provide the squadron with much needed assistance when dealing Arab women.
The 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion is from Fort Gordon, Ga. Task Force Thunderbird also comprises the 11th Signal Brigade from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion from Mannheim, Germany.