CHARLOTTE, N.C – Huge satellite dishes twirled in search of a signal so that military telephones and computers gained wireless-secure connectivity as the soldiers of the North Carolina National Guard’s 295th Signal Network Support Company conduct satellite communication training here, in April.
The North Carolina Guardsmen set up a complete communications grid and utilized their civilian maintenance support in order to test all of their equipment to be used to sustain communications for their Major Subordinate Command, the 130th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade during the unit’s annual training this year.
“During the equipment check one generator was bad,” said Army Sgt. John Sattergren, a Multi-Channel Transistor System Operator-Maintainer. “There was no power coming across to the equipment so we pulled out the test equipment to check the wiring and the generator itself.”
“We had a few issues with the satellites but as far as the equipment is concerned, everything is fully functional,” said 1st Sgt. Steven Ramsey, of the 295th. “I think the soldiers got some good training from it, more hands on. Some of them have not touched the equipment since last year’s annual training.”
Although this was the unit’s first usage of the equipment this year, the soldiers were able to efficiently install the systems to get the grid up and running in a couple of hours. It took longer to get the equipment to the location than it did to actually set it up and infuse power.
The soldiers set up several satellite transportable terminals, a couple of generators, a DRASH tent, and a Joint Network Node, a hub that receives the satellite imagery and transmits it into different mediums of communication.
“Nodes interpret the system and pushes it out to phone, internet or whatever is needed,” said Spc. Erik Van Dyne, a Multi-Channel Transistor System Operator-Maintainer. “The JNN can sustain its own power and run continuously, but it is set-up to pull power from a generator and the internal power is only used in back-up mode.”
Due to the amount of classified information that flows through the node station, “Only trained personnel are allowed inside, not even the commander can just walk in,” said Van Dyne.
A two-man team operates the communication hub and it all happens in the back of a compact truck. A sneak peek inside the truck revealed numerous wires intertwined; each serving a purpose essential to the communication structure.
Once every line was plugged and antennas were set, the signals flowed seamlessly without a glitch. In other words, no signals were crossed as the soldiers took their time assembling the small power grid.
Day one of the training was devoted to setting up a functional power grid. On day two, the soldiers put radios in the vehicles that were identified to convoy to the annual training site. As the soldiers ran road tests to check the radios, the smell of barbecue chicken filled the air.
The 130th MEB cooks set-up shop outside and grilled the afternoon meal in a mobile kitchen trailer; a way for their cooks to also prepare for the upcoming training. The mobile unit comes equipped with everything needed to feed more than 600 soldiers.
“It takes four trained personnel about 20 minutes to set it up,” said Sgt. 1st Class Natasha Quarles, the 130th MEB food service noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “We will be taking this equipment to AT but we may not use it [if one of our support units brings their equipment].”
“Utilizing the MKT is more work but it’s definitely worth it because the food tastes better due to the grilling and the soldiers really appreciate the effort we put into it,” said Spc. Shasta Resper, a 130th MEB food service technician.
The two units worked together for a successful trial run in preparation for the upcoming annual training event. A civilian rep, who gave advice to the soldiers on condensing the nodes into a more conducive work space, spoke of how well everything flowed during the exercise. The former service member misses the camaraderie from his time in grade.
“Working with the soldiers is probably the best part of my job because I still get to do the training,” said Lee Johnson, of General Dynamics. “I have four and a half years active duty; I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a soldier and civilian, but I liked it more as a soldier due to the camaraderie with the other soldiers.”
“All and all this was a very successful weekend,” said Capt. Amanda Crabb, the Commander of the 295th Sig. Company. “I would like to thank the brigade’s [signal section] for their support.”
“We enjoyed the field service representative support and getting out there working with our equipment,” she continued. “This is a great unit with great soldiers, and wonderful support.”
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