Soldiers from the 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 11th Signal Brigade, conducted a field training exercise, or FTX, in several Fort Huachuca training areas, Feb. 4. – Wednesday.
The 10-day FTX put the emphasis on the 40th ESB teams’ abilities to move as a small element to various sites anywhere in America, at any time, to provide vital communications needs in any situation. Through the snow and freezing temperatures, the Soldiers were taught to always place the mission first.
Soldiers from each 11th Signal Company were represented, with Company A acting as a rear detachment fronting personnel, supplies and equipment as needed. Cooks provided hot meals, and a small element from brigade headquarters acted as a close-proximity friendly unit.
The noncommissioned officers, often considered “the backbone of the Army,” played what seemed to be the biggest role in this FTX. As a team chief, a sergeant is responsible for the care of his or her Soldiers, their training and the team’s equipment. This FTX allowed each sergeant to maneuver a team and equipment to remote sites to set up communications to practice skills needed during a real-life communications situation.
Once at their assigned site, each team functioned independently, receiving help only when requested. It is essential that the teams be able to function on their own because, although close to each other and to assistance on Fort Huachuca, each team could be thousands of miles away from any help in a real-life situation.
One small team travelled to Douglas, where they were more than 50 miles away from the rest of the battalion.
According to Spc. Jefferson Reid, from Miami, Fla., his team of approximately a dozen Soldiers took no more than two hours to set up a communications base that could support up to a brigade-sized element, close to 6,000 Soldiers.
To add realism to the training, the Soldiers always wore their ‘pro-mask’, or gas mask, on their side, to simulate the potential of a biological or chemical attack while performing their mission. Wearing the mask is not normal during an average duty day at an assigned unit during peacetime, but having masks at the ready is common in potentially hostile environments.
The Soldiers conducted 24-hour operations through the entire duration of the FTX and were briefed on their missions on a daily basis.
“Being out here [gave] us the opportunity to really sharpen our skills, learn new things and [taught] us to expect the unexpected,” said Reid.