CAMP RAPID, S.D. – Any training exercise presents challenges to soldiers participating in them. Among those challenges, communication is a vital requirement for all soldiers, regardless of their specialty.
Army Capt. Frank Brown, communications officer with the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 213th Regional Support Group, faced the challenge of setting up and maintaining the various means of communication for 213th RSG soldiers during Golden Coyote, an annual training exercise held in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The exercise provides servicemembers from 11 states and four foreign nations with training opportunities in logistical and tactical environments, in addition to real-world missions such as bridge construction and humanitarian aid.
“We’re charged with providing voice and data communication assets to the Regional Support Group,” said Brown, who calls Harrisburg, Pa., home. “We’re also pulling voice and data from the signal support elements from the 443rd Signal, providing [classified and unclassified] voice and data through those services.”
Brown accepted the position of brigade signal officer after being approached by Army Lt. Col. Robby Robinson, the 213th RSG’s executive officer.
“I’ve only been in the position for two to three months, so I’m still assessing my soldiers and their capabilities,” Brown said, “and we’re trying to find common ground -- who’s good at what -- and task them accordingly and share that knowledge amongst the soldiers so that we all learn from each other.”
Brown and his soldiers established a working network within their exercise headquarters building before heading out to the field, where they faced several obstacles.
“We have several [forward operating bases] displaced by hundreds of miles, so the communication challenges are going to be unique,” Brown said. “The learning curve of some of the communication assets we’ve had to deploy, due to the displaced locations, is something that some of us haven’t touched in several years.”
Brown helped his soldiers set up equipment such as a radio antenna, a deployed digital training campus and a mobile satellite dish enabling Internet connectivity for units in the field.
Spending time in the field is nothing new to Brown, who enlisted in the Marine Corps after he graduated from high school in 1993.
“I joined the active duty Marine Corps as a parachute rigger, … then I joined the Marine security force in Washington state, served out there for a couple years, and I transferred up to Maine to a cold-weather infantry unit up there,” he said. During his time in Maine, he added, he went to college, majoring in criminology. After spending some years in Maine, he transferred to Pennsylvania to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which he said had one of the better criminology degree programs.
Brown transferred to the Pennsylvania National Guard, and joined the officer corps with a direct commission.
Despite the challenges he and his soldiers faced, such as weather and technical issues, Brown looked forward to the training during Golden Coyote and had confidence in his soldiers.
“I’m looking forward to the challenges out here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting to collaborate with my soldiers and build a cohesive team there so we can overcome the challenges that the signal community is going to bring us in the future.”