CAMP McGREGOR, N.M. - Their mission is to link far-flung units together with state-of-the-art communications technology, but the men and women of the New York Army National Guard's 101st Expeditionary Signal Battalion are learning to cope with heat, dust, and field conditions here in the New Mexico desert.
With the temperature at 94 degrees, conditions reflect that of the upcoming battlefield, said 1st Lt. John Santana, the commander of Company A.
"We do have Soldiers that will be going out with other units in teams of three, five, or ten going out in support of MP (military police) and infantry units," Santana said.
Twenty-eight miles out in the desert, the signal Soldiers are focused on basic infantry skills as well as their communications mission before deployment to Afghanistan later this year.
The 101st ESB is being trained by Task Force Redhawk. The task force is an element of the 5th Armored Brigade, which trains units that are deploying overseas.
Santana said he feels it is important for his Soldiers to train on basic combat skills as a signal battalion. "Their main mission is signal communications but they have to be prepared to defend their position if need be, and so this training is critical for our Soldiers as well as infantry and any other Soldier in the Army," Santana said.
Having previously deployed to both Iraq and Kuwait, Staff Sgt. Delia Medrano, a communications specialist, said the training is similar to what they will experience in country.
"Training in this temperature, with the equipment, is what it will be like in Afghanistan," she said. "As signal Soldiers we don't get to do the hands-on training that much and it's important for where we are going."
Essential equipment testing is being conducted along with a culminating field exercise in order to accurately make sure all their communication gear is set for the upcoming mission.
"We made sure that all of our equipment is in working order," Santana said. "We will later take it out to a location in the field, set it up and communicate with the equipment, tear it down and bring it back in."
The importance of being prepared and trained on the equipment was stressed by Medrano as well.
"Having our equipment ready means we can go over there and serve everybody," she said. "We can fix all of our mistakes here so we don't make them when it counts."
Individual soldiers are learning everyone else's job, so no matter who is available they can always get the job done, said Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Anderson, the platoon sergeant and team supervisor.