BOLESLAWIEC, Poland – The South Carolina state flag proudly waves overhead in front of a four-story barracks building housing two Army National Guard units from opposite ends of South Carolina. Both units are deployed to Boleslawiec, Poland, in support of Atlantic Resolve, with a common thread of their relationships stemming from the Signal Corps.
The two units, the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Forward, stationed in the coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina, and Company B, 151st Expeditionary Signal Battalion, located in the upstate city of Hodges, communicate daily on both a personal and professional level, finding solutions to situations while living and working in one location.
Sometimes communication is as simple as sharing resources such as water or where to buy items on the economy. Other times, the conversations surround military related resources.
During a conversation between Capt. Daniel Taylor, the commander of Co. B, 151st ESC and Staff Sgt. David Nelson, a signal support systems specialist assigned to 218th MEB in support of Resolute Castle 2018, Taylor discovered that Nelson was working on maximizing the capability range of high frequency radios for RC18.
The signal company intended to use HF radios throughout NATO's eastern member states but had personnel who have never used them. To meet the training needs of Co. B, 151st ESC, Nelson volunteered to help the neighboring signal Soldiers by giving a three-day class on HF radios.
"I thought my time would be well served training junior NCOs and enlisted Soldiers on the capabilities of HF communications," said Nelson. "It is a good skill set to have for all Signal Corps personnel."
Nelson understood the importance of HF radio communications since he had been diligently working to establish an HF automatic link establishment network between Resolute Castle's two primary engineer construction sites in Poland and Romania. This capability allows for communications during changing or congested networks.
"When Capt. Taylor found out that I was working to create an HF ALE network in Romania, he was excited," said Nelson. "They were trying to do the same thing."
Co. B, 151st ESC provided approximately eight Soldiers whose military occupational specialties ranged from a wheeled vehicle mechanic and a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, to a variety of Signal Corps specialties such as
satellite operators and computer-based occupations.
"I told my motor sergeant that if there was an opportunity for training that I wanted to do it," said Spc. Jeffery Evans, a wheeled vehicle mechanic assigned to Co. B, 151st ESC, from Savannah, Georgia. "I want to get as much out of this deployment as possible."
The three days of training consisted of one day of training on the Harris AN/PRC-150 manpack radio fundamentals, how radio waves travel through air, and how space weather affects HF radio communications.
The second day consisted of familiarization with the radio, its capabilities, and how to program and test the communication programming application. Students learned the benefits of using the CPA which has the capabilities to program 10 radios in 30 minutes as opposed to the one hour it takes to program one radio directly. By the end of the second day, the Soldiers learned how to build their own network and program multiple radios.
"We do fine at computer C4 communications, computer communications, but we tend to struggle with C2 communications, sincgars (Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System) radios," said 1st Sgt. Michael Dailey, the first sergeant of Co. B, 151st ESC. "They have learned a lot and hopefully will be able to spread the knowledge to the rest of the battalion."
By the final day of training, the Soldiers learned about how to secure radios using encryption and HF antenna theory. The culminating event of the HF radio training was the practical exercise of antenna installation. The Soldiers learned how to set up a near vertical incidence sky wave antenna and then went to the soccer field to install a broadband dipole antenna. They made connections from the prior two days of training to understand how antennas work using frequency and range.
The aha moment came when the Soldiers learned how to create an antenna out of military objects that may be readily available, such as Internet cable and spoons from meals, ready to eat.
"It was cool that we used the real equipment," said Evans. "We learned how to use other things we might have in order to communicate."
By the end of the training, it was clear the Soldiers had made connections between HF radios and antenna capabilities and will be able to practically apply what they learned in real-world applications.
"HF radios can serve as a primary means of communication when all other communications fail," said Nelson. "It is an important part of our capabilities."