Bastogne Soldiers assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), conducted a two-week communication exercise on Johnson Field to validate their mission command systems in preparation for future operations.

The brigade has not fully setup their Tactical Operations Center, or TOC, and validated their communication equipment since their successful Joint Readiness Training Center rotation in Fort Polk, Louisiana last fall.

Although the brigade had active COVID-19 safety measures in place to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus, the event still presented a challenge because of the amount of personnel necessary for the task and their close proximity to one another in the TOC.

Major Jason Keller, brigade signal officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st BCT, led the communication exercise and validation for the last time as he prepares to leave this summer for a fellowship opportunity in Washington.

This final training event was important to Keller.

He wants to ensure that even after his departure the brigade is set up for success and can communicate in a tactical environment with whatever mission the unit takes on.

“This exercise is a critical aspect as we prepare for collective training,” Keller said. “Following JRTC and a lot of leadership turnover within our brigade we needed to reset and get our leaders and Soldiers back used to the tactical systems. We need to do this now and be prepared for exercises such as Eagle Talon, field training exercises, gunnery and so on as we re-establish readiness within the BCT.”

The Soldiers, while maintaining social distancing and donning the appropriate personal protective equipment, conducted the strenuous efforts of setting up and configuring the various tents and communication equipment that covered the majority of Johnson Field.

Some of the Soldiers with past experience in “jumping TOC” knew how to set up the tents and equipment properly and easily taught the new troopers how to establish their workstations. It was no easy task as rain and snow fell on Soldiers during the exercise, but it provided the training necessary to prepare for real-world operations.

Specialist Salheem, Lee, air defense battle management operator assigned to HHC, 1st BCT was glad to finally get his system online and find a way to help the brigade in its next mission.

“This is a very productive event,” Lee said. “We get a chance to integrate our systems with the battalions and integrate fires. We don’t get to do that very often so this experience is valuable.”

Specialist Baleb Hammond, air defense battle management operator assigned to HHC, 1st BCT worked alongside Lee in the brigade TOC as part of the Fires Team and was glad to finally get his hands on the equipment.

“This training event gives us time to work on systems that we normally don’t have time to work on,” Hammond said. “I’m glad we are doing this now so we can be ready for all the training that’s coming our way.”

The brigade will continue to prepare for their training events this spring to be ready to win through effective mission command.