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Signal-style Field Training

May 02, 2011 | Captain Hannah He

Every unit has to spend some time in the field. It's just a fact of Army life. As a cadet, I was used to participating in one FTX (field training exercise) a semester. Since joining the real Army, however, I've greatly increased the amount of time spent "in the field." We have mini-FTX's to get ready for the real company-level FTX's that are in preparation for the Battalion FTX that gets us ready for the Brigade Culminating Training Exercise....it all sounds really important. But it just means we have to be outside.

Being a Signal unit, we have some special considerations that not all units require. For example, our equipment and communications assemblages require tender loving care. They need to be kept dry and under cover and air-conditioned when it's hot and ventilated but not too cold when it's not hot. This is a big change for anyone who is used to going to the field to practice infantry-style tactics, like I did as a cadet. My packing list included a poncho and poncho liner for sleeping, a change of socks, and thats about it. Now, to field a company of signal equipment, a field plan includes the placement of 5 large frame tents for equipment, a maintenance tent, a feeding tent, and up to 24 small hex tents for personnel. In addition, we need to make sure to keep room for the accompanying generators, trailers, shelters, antennas, satellite dishes, and ECUs that go with the equipment inside.

With all this equipment comes various hazards as well. Safety is absolutely paramount with so much equipment around. Everything has to be properyl grounded and the grounds properly marked so no one trips over something. All the various cables and lines on the ground need to be aerial-ized, if you will, to go over one's head (shout out to the Army's awesome cable dawgs) or marked/covered with sand bags. With antennas, the grounding wires that spread out several feet around the mast need to be clearly marked at approximately chest level, and also marked with chem lights at night, so that no one accidentally clotheslines themselves. And most of this additional equipment needs to be covered with scattering camo nets, to protect from view from possible flying hostiles, provide shade, and scatter the heat from all the equipment.

Nevertheless, some field practices are still the same. Some of my field essentials include baby wipes, hand sanitizer, a book (now more commonly replaced with my beloved Nook), plenty of lickies and chewies (my selection this week includes sour fruit gushers, peanut butter crackers, cap'n crunch, and plenty of mint gum), sun block of spf 70+, and the required protection of ear protection, eye protection, and gloves. And a little prayer that it doesn't rain, but doesn't get too hot. Neither of which is likely. Just because we're in the field.


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