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NEWS | July 13, 2015

Army Reserve signal brigade connects units at CSTX 78

By By Spc. Anthony Hooker 335th Signal Command (Theater)

FORT MCCOY, Wis. - Twelve Army Reserve soldiers from the 359th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade (TTSB) served as trainers for this year’s Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX) 78, held here throughout the month of June. The chosen 12 served as customer support specialists - formally identified as “tiger” teams - for units operating out of five different Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) in the training area June 10 and 11.

A communications exercise (COMMEX) was held June 1st through 5th, before the CSTX officially began, where participating units set up, configured and tested their computers, satellites and hardware. By the end of the COMMEX, many units could not connect to the tactical network (TACNET).

Problems ranged from administrative privileges, which allow access to email, Share Point and other network-based resources, to connection issues resulting from faulty cabling or corrupted hardware configurations. This is when the tiger teams were set in motion to identify these issues and help the units on the ground have a successful training exercise at CSTX.

The tiger teams, based out of Fort Gordon, Ga., were given 48 hours to visit and assess every unit’s battalion and brigade headquarter elements.

“The problems we found were not complicated issues - they mostly needed attention,” said 1st Lt. Algernon Evans, an assistant operations officer with the 359th TTSB. “Becoming a go-between for the [78th Training Division] trainers and the users on the FOBs was our greatest contribution,” added Evans.

After coordinating with each site’s communications officer-in-charge, the teams provided guidance on the connectivity of the CSTX’s Windows active directory, validation of voice over internet protocol (VOIP) addresses, and deployment of the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) infrastructure, through TACNET computers.

Col. Christopher Koc, the deputy chief of staff for the 78th Training Division, realized the TACNET and connectivity issues needed immediate attention to ensure the CSTX was a success.

“The deadline to get comms could not shift so we needed to complete a large number of tasks in a short period of time,” said Koc. 

He was grateful the tiger teams were able to shift their training focus and make the CSTX effective for everyone involved. The 359th TTSB originally came to Fort McCoy to validate their CPOF during Grecian Firebolt like the other units participating in CSTX 78. 

Grecian Firebolt is an annual training exercise that allows signal units to keep pace with communication transformations, and link communication support to identified U. S. Army Reserve Command (USARC) sponsored exercises. 

“I was familiar with the 359th and some of their personnel, but it was fortuitous that they were available to assist us on such short notice,” Koc reflected.

Lt. Col. Reginald Fields, the communications chief of the 75th Training Command Gulf Division, said the surge of on-site technical expertise was pivotal in keeping to a scheduled timeline during CSTX 78.

“The tiger teams filled a void in our manpower for this particular exercise,” said Fields. “Being able to provide face time helped the FOB [signal officers] know the right connections to apply and gave us more visibility.”

Apart from providing support to fellow units, Evans said the tiger team mission also provided an opportunity to see 359th soldiers perform under pressure.

“[The additional duty] helped soldiers see that they can be called upon at any given time,” Evans said. “Helping a variety of units –medical, engineering, logistics – allowed our soldiers to cross-train on a mission that was essential and time-sensitive. It was good to see who’s good at what.”