by SSG Tim Volkert
FORT HOOD, Texas � Sticky mud, extreme heat and humidity are the only things that challenged soldiers from 40th Signal Battalion, 11th Signal Brigade, Fort Huachuca, Ariz., as they set up shop for the brigade�s summer exercises.
About 90 soldiers deployed to a remote site near North Fort Hood to help create a worldwide network and communications support for two exercises.
The primary exercise the unit was involved in was Grecian Firebolt, a worldwide annual Signal exercise testing the communications capabilities of all Signal units, including Reserve and National Guardsmen, said CPT Melissa Miles, Fort Hood site commander and commander of Company A, 40th Signal Battalion.
The second exercise 40th Signal Battalion was involved with was providing communications support to Reserve quartermaster units for their annual POLEX exercise, she said. At Fort Hood, they directly supported 363d Quartermaster Battalion.
|SPC Chad Varney, a tactical-satellite-systems operator and maintainer from Company A, 40th Signal Battalion, 11th Signal Brigade, Fort Huachuca, Ariz., contacts the ground-mobile force to get some transmission information for his tactical satellite.|
The 40th Signal Battalion was the most-deployed battalion in the brigade for the summer exercises. The battalion had teams deployed to Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa and Virginia, Miles said.
After rolling into the Fort Hood site June 6, the soldiers faced hard rains that turned the stone-hard ground into thick mud. Although it made for a little slower movement, Miles said the soldiers still got their equipment up and running within the standard setup time.
"It was more challenging," said 1SG David Thompson, site noncommissioned officer in charge and Company A�s first sergeant. "It got slippery up here at first. Then it got muddy, like gumbo mud that sticks to the bottom of your soles."
"It was wet, but other than that, it wasn�t too bad. Everything went up pretty easily," said SGT Robert Dawson, a team chief from Company B, 40th Signal Battalion. He said it was good to see how the equipment reacted to the rain.
After the rain subsided, the next and continuing challenge the soldiers faced was the extreme heat. After several days of high temperatures and humidity, preventing heat injuries became a major role in the unit�s mission on-site.
"It�s a big factor when we�re working outside. We�re not used to the humidity, and it saps your strength real fast," Dawson said.
Thompson said the unit took the heat issue very seriously and altered the work-and-rest schedule as needed to keep soldiers from overexerting themselves. Soldiers also helped prevent themselves from becoming heat casualties by drinking plenty of water. The unit went through more than 500 gallons of water in the first five days they were on-site.
Aside from the weather and change in climates that hindered some training the unit would have liked to do, Miles said that just deploying into a different area is good training for the soldiers.
"It�s always good for us to go somewhere different and experience a new climate and surroundings, because that�s exactly what happens when you deploy (for a real-world mission)," she said.
The soldiers said deploying for these exercises was what they need to do to be ready for a deployment.
"When you�re out here, and this is an actual field environment, you do everything you do as if you�re going to war," said SPC David Brock, a multichannel communications specialist from Company B, 40th Signal Battalion. Brock was cross-training with a tactical-satellite team during these exercises. "You�re away from everything. You�re in this environment, and this is all you have to deal with."
Having the opportunity to train with the other military branches made the exercise even more valuable, said Thompson.
"We�ve trained up, and we know how to communicate. Now it�s time to hook up to an outside unit and see if we can provide the support they need," he said.
"This allows us to work with other branches that we normally don�t get to, (including) other units in the brigade," said Dawson. "In case a war breaks out, you need to know that other units are training just as hard as you are."
SSG Volkert is assigned to 11th Signal Brigade�s public-affairs office at Fort Huachuca.
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