By 1st Lt. Paul E. Baker, 51st Signal Battalion (Expeditionary)March 20, 2013
The Cobras of Charlie Company, 51st Signal Battalion (Expeditionary), 35th Signal Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, participated in the National Training Center Rotation 13-03 at Fort Irwin, Calif., from Jan. 7 to Feb. 8 to improve their skill set and provide tactical and upper tier communications in a combat environment.
The company provided communication support to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and supporting units in a 455 kilometer area, which displayed the unit's capability to support diverse missions over a vast area of operations. The training environment of the Mojave Desert cannot be replicated at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., the company's homestation.
The Cobras earned recognition from the 3rd BCT and NTC observer controllers for their ability to move locations in an expedient manner, establish communications at a fast pace, and protect the network from cyber attacks.
NTC Rotation 13-03 was one of the first force-on-force rotations in the past five years. As Army doctrine moves from counterterrorism and focuses on near-peer combatants, the current rotation set-up will be the new standard. Decisive Action is a new look at force-on-force, where all forces are continuously moving forward to close with and destroy the enemy.
"This rotation was a great training opportunity for the teams. Many of the Soldiers have deployed, but this was their first experience outside of the FOB-based combat that they've seen during the past 11 years," said Capt. John Rohn, the company commander. Charlie Company Cobras experienced this fully."
The Cobras provided communication support to units such as the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Fires Brigade, which ensured 1-21 FA leaders had command and control of their Multiple Launch Rocket System battery, and the 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd BCT, 1st Cav. Div., with internet and voice capabilities to track vehicle parts leaving their operations center. Soldiers provided phone services to the military intelligence company, which ensured their unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) provided maximum coverage on the battlefield.
"[NTC] allowed us to showcase our capabilities," said Spc. Kendrick Davis, a nodal network system operator assigned to C Co. "At JBLM, we just set up and tear down. At NTC, we can prove to everyone how good we are. It gave us a chance to troubleshoot network issues, which we don't usually have with just installing the network. We actually had to maintain the network with real subscribers."
"NTC afforded my team the opportunity to strengthen our ties to each other, empowering our trust and affording us realistic training unavailable elsewhere, except in the fires of combat," said Sgt. Joshua Price, a C Co. command post node team chief.
The Cobras also received cyber attacks organized by Cyber Command based in Fort Meade. A command post node team detected an attacker that tried to access the network that used a set of military internet protocols (IPs). The CPN neutralized the attack before the enemy gained access, earning honors from 3rd BCT. If the CPN team did not prevent the attack, the entire network could have been shut down, leaving combatant commanders without the ability to command and control their forces.
C Co. also trained on react to contact, indirect fire, and encountered several chemical, biological, radiation, and nuclear threats. The 3rd BCT Special Troops Battalion used their engineer company to build a dirt wall around their first assembly area. The company headquarters and network operations cell guarded the perimeter every morning during stand-to.
The Cobras deployed 27 vehicles, 12 generators, 7 trailers, 11 containers, and 48 Soldiers in support of NTC Rotation 13-03. Equipment was line hauled from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to Fort Irwin Calif., a total distance of 1,153 miles. The company received the NTC mission in October 2012.