115th FAB completes first brigade size comm exercise with all systems

1st Lt. Alyssa Bever, 115th Field Artillery Brigade Public Affairs Office

The phrase Mission Command System Integration exercise was said countless times leading up to the 115th Field Artillery Brigade’s annual training at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center.

What did it mean?

Simple answer – to get every communication system in the brigade and subordinate battalions to talk to each other. This was a communication heavy exercise, and one that had not been done on this scale before.

“We needed to enable the brigade commander to execute mission command over the 2-300th Field Artillery, 960th Brigade Support Battalion and the 148th Brigade Signal Company on our assigned equipment,” said Maj. Alexander Fisher, brigade operations officer. “It is difficult to get the entire brigade footprint together in a field environment to stress our systems, this exercise was intended to do so.”

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Mission command is the ability for the commander of a unit to exercise his authority and provide direction through his orders in a unified land operation. At Camp Guernsey the brigade and two battalions, with one additional battalion participating for some of the exercise from Wisconsin, trained on this process on a central, secure network as well as over multiple radio platforms. The network was built over the Warfighter Information Training – Tactical suite of systems, to include the joint network node at the brigade and the battalion command post nodes.

The brigade had established this network before, but never in a situation where subordinate units would be involved.

“In previous exercises, the brigade has always been the subordinate headquarters, so we either pulled some communication services from division or we only had to provide for our headquarters element,” said Maj. Tom Blackburn, the brigade signal and communications officer. “This was the first time we had to provide the customer service and support to our battalions in the field. It was very new to us trying to get multiple CPNs at the battalions to link to our JNN and servers at brigade and using a lot of systems on that network.”

Leading up to the summer, the brigade conducted three communication exercises with the battalion communication sections to get all the equipment tested and configured. It was not a smooth process, but it was valuable training.

“We brought all the signal guys down to Cheyenne, the battalions, the signal company was there, and my section and we went to work in building our network,” said Blackburn. “The exercises were planned in the crawl, walk and run method. There was a lot to learn and I don’t think we really got to the run part until we started setting up at Guernsey.”

Once on the ground at Guernsey, every signal soldier went to work establishing communications, which included getting connected to a satellite to pass data, radios transmitting and receiving to distant headquarters and getting Command Post of the Future, the main battle tracking system to function.

“Each unit was talking to brigade in three days once they got on the ground,” Blackburn said. “Those guys put in long hours, but their commitment to getting everything to work showed. By the end of it, there were some proud folks. But tired folks too.”

The computer network wasn’t the only focus, as the brigade operated a multi-frequency radio network as well, using SINCGARS and High Frequency radios. The brigade was able to communicate to its units over different systems and operate as a field artillery brigade, to include sending simulated firing missions.

“The outcome was the ability to process coordinated fire missions from higher headquarters through the brigade, to the battalions,” said Command Sgt. Major Jason Spaulding, the brigade operations sergeant major. “We were able to integrate missions and exercise the systems throughout the brigade.”

The mission was to integrate all the systems across a brigade size unit, a task that’d never been completed before. Until now.

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