Bastogne Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), conducted a two-weeklong communication exercise at Johnson Field to validate their mission command systems in preparation for a fall rotation at Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and future operations.
Because of COVID-19, the proximity and amount of personnel necessary to fully set up a Tactical Operations Center and validate communication equipment was challenging.
Major Jason Keller, brigade signal officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st BCT, planned and led the COMMEX to ensure the brigade can communicate with its units and conduct operations.
“Right before the COVID-19 pandemic Bastogne Brigade fielded many new and upgraded signal platforms and this COMMEX provided our first opportunity to employ those systems outside of the fielding environment,” Keller said. “With any new equipment and new operators there will always be some speedbumps and challenges along the way but we pushed through them to validate as much as we could and will continue working each issue until 1st BCT is 100% validated on all communication capabilities.”
The Soldiers, while maintaining social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and donning the appropriate personal protective equipment, conducted the strenuous efforts of setting up and configuring the various tents and communication equipment that covered nearly every inch of Johnson Field.
Many new Soldiers, as well as leaders of HHC, received training on this through courses and online training, but this was the first time they got hands-on experience through this practical exercise.
First Sergeant David Wasierski, HHC, noticed the amount of changeover within the brigade and was grateful for the opportunity to validate the new equipment with the new Soldiers.
“We’ve seen a significant amount of turnover of key personnel and fielded several items of new equipment throughout the company, including the new [joint light tactical vehicle],” Wasierski said. “This exercise was the first opportunity to see all of these elements come together and provided a great snapshot and opportunity for us to truly see ourselves. This exercise served as a great baseline certification for all the Soldiers assigned to HHC and we look forward to taking what we’ve learned, refining our standard operating procedures, and employing them in full capacity at the Joint Readiness Training Center this fall.”
This is the first time Wasierski set up a brigade TOC as the HHC first sergeant along with his commander, Capt. Craig Dolhi.
HHC is a unique company as it contains Soldiers with a large variety of military occupational specialties who must all come together to support the brigade. Each Soldier has a specific duty and place in establishing and operating within the TOC to ensure the success of the operation. The enablers who establish and set up the mission command nodes are essential to each commander’s success.
“We used the initial setup to familiarize the team with the layout and the setup procedures,” Dolhi said. “We then dedicated time to refine our load plans and streamline tent and equipment setup. Finally, we validated the new plans while executing a TOC jump during the COMMEX. By refining our processes and executing multiple repetitions, the team increased efficiencies which will ultimately enable the brigade command post to rapidly relocate, reestablish and control the fight.”
The brigade Soldiers will continue to prepare for their fall rotation to JRTC and will be ready to win through effective mission command and communication.