44th Signal Battalion (Expeditionary)
44th Signal Battalion
The mission of the 44th Signal Battalion (Expeditionary) is to engineer, install, operate, maintain, and defend quality, reliable and scalable C4 information systems, while quickly integrating new Soldiers, building technically competent teams, and increasing system readiness to support operations in support of European Theater Contingency Operations. Specific tasks included: Operating in Theater, Joint and Combined environments; Rapidly projecting trained and ready communications forces for Joint and Combined operations; ensuring C2 communications capabilities at echelon to enable Joint and Combined operations; commanding and controlling the infostructure to provide network management, information assurance, and information dissemination management; integrating emerging technologies to enable a capabilities based force; and ensuring force well being.
The 44th Signal Battalion (Expeditionary) was first constituted on 3 February 1944 in the Army of the United States as the 44th Signal Construction Battalion. It was redesigned on 14 April 1944 as the 44th Signal Light Construction Battalion and activated at Camp Forrest, Tennessee. The unit was later reorganized and redesignated on 26 June 1944 as the 44th Heavy Signal Construction Battalion. After the Second World War it was inactivated on 6 April 1946 in Japan. During World War II, the unit earned the credit for participation in the Rhineland Campaign and the Central Europe Campaign.
The unit was redesignated on 1 August 1966 as the 44th Signal Battalion, allotted to the Regular Army, and activated in Vietnam. It was inactivated on 1 March 1970 in Vietnam. It was reactivated on 17 March 1972 in Vietnam, and then inactivated on 3 June 1972 at Oakland, California after returning to the United States. During the conflict in Vietnam, the unit participated in the following campaigns: Counteroffensive Phase II, Counteroffensive Phase III, Tet Counteroffensive, Counteroffensive Phase IV, Counteroffensive Phase V, Counteroffensive Phase VI, Tet 69/Counteroffensive, Summer-Fall 1969, Winter-Spring 1970, Consolidation II, and Cease-Fire.
The 44th Signal Battalion was again activated on 16 March 1981 in Germany. Headquartered in Mannheim, the "Fighting 44th" was geographically dispersed from Darmstadt to Heilbronn. The Battalion deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm between 1990 and 1991. Subsequently, elements of A and D Companies participated in Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq. After returning from these deployments, the Battalion consolidated all of its companies and relocated to Rheinland Kaserne, Ettlingen, Germany, in June 1991. In 1994, elements of B and C Companies deployed in support of Operation Support Hope in Rwanda. The Battalion once again received orders to relocate back to Mannheim, Germany, effective 15 January 1995.
In late November 1995, the 44th Signal Battalion moved equipment from Headquarters and Headquarters Company and A and D Companies, with attached personnel and deployed throughout the Balkan region to support Operation Joint Endeavor. Soldiers in Taszar and Kaposvar, Hungary, supported the US National Support Element's Intermediate Staging Base and US Army Europe (USAREUR) (Forward) Headquarters. C Company deployed with elements of the 72nd Signal Battalion to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Zagreb, Croatia, to support the Implementation Forces Headquarters and the Commander for Support. The inactivation of A Company and realignment of equipment posed a significant challenge following A Company's redeployment in July 1996. D Company, the company slated to inactivate, was deployed for the duration of the year, so inactivation was not possible. Instead, D Company was reflagged as B Company, and the former B Company, located in the rear, was inactivated at the end of the fiscal year. Equipment, Soldiers, and facilities were distributed throughout the battalion.
From August 2002 to May 2003, the 44th Signal Battalion was part of the historic Georgia Train and Equipment Program (GTEP). A Joint Task Force of US Army and US Air Force, under 2/10th Special Forces Group out of Fort Carson, Colorado, began a 2 year program to train and equip 4 "Combat Battalions" of the Republic of Georgia, a former member state of the USSR. B Company led an 11-man Deployable Communications Package-Tactical (DCP-T) to provide the operations base camp in Krtsanisi, Georgia, with critical reach-back communications to Central Region and the continental United States. In December 2002, personnel rotated in to replace the initial team. The GTEP was transferred from 2/10th Special Forces Group to Marine Forces Europe. Both teams took part in the training of the Georgian troops for communications subjects. The OICs were also the task force executive officers of Advance Operating Base 060 and served as the Task Force GTEP Signal Officer for the duration of the rotation. In May 2003, the mission was taken over by the 72nd Signal Battalion.
In early 2003, the 7th Signal Brigade received an order to deploy to Turkey in support of ARFOR in the northern front for Operation Iraqi Freedom. By late February 2003, the equipment of the entire brigade was rail loaded to be transported by ship to Turkey. In February 2003, B Company took the redeployed team from Georgia into Turkey as the advanced communications support for 1st Infantry Division and 21st Theater Support Command. Transported by air, the team brought the first tactical vehicles into theater and set up the Port of Iskenderun, the sea port of debarkation, providing initial communications support to the northern front. Later, other DCP-Ts arrived from 72nd Signal Battalion and the 44th Signal Battalion. This team provided support to the 1st Infantry Division Commander, Major General Batiste, on Incirlik Airbase, while B Comapny's team was relieved by 72nd Signal Battalion at the SPOD and moved east to Mardin on the border of Turkey and Iraq. There they later supported Major General Batiste until the 1st Infantry Division was given orders in late April 2003 to redeploy to Central Region.
At this time, Task Force Rock was formed in order to augment the 11th Signal Brigade in Kuwait and Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Task Force Rock was composed of C Company with a hub platoon and associated support personnel from A Company and DCP-T support from Headquarters and Headquarters Company. The task force deployed to the CENTCOM region in May 2003 with units geographically separated from Kuwait in the South of Baghdad in the North. In Basrah, A Company's DCP-T Heavy was deployed in support of Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC). A and C Companies DCP-T Light was augmented to the 151st Signal Battalion at Camp Virginia, Kuwait. C Company's DCP-T Heavy initially provided support to the Iraqi Survey Group in Baghdad. Later, it moved to Babylon, where it provided support to the headquarters of the Polish-led Multi-National Division. Task Force Rock suffered no combat injuries or loss of life and no loss of equipment for the duration of the deployment.
In addition to Operation Iraqi Freedom, C Company deployed a C2FEM (Command and Control Forced Entry Module) DCP-T package to Vicenza, Italy, in April 2003, in support of the Southern European Task Force (SETAF) Quick Reaction Force (QRF). The package was pre-positioned in Italy to replace the communications ability that the deployed 509th Signal Battalion had previously provided. In August 2003, with the ongoing change in national leadership threatening peace in Liberia, Captain Denton Dye deployed to Vicenza, Italy, to join the DCP-T already there as the LNO to UN forces preparing for Joint Task Force Liberia. Fortunately, a peaceful transition was able to proceed in Liberia and the Marines providing security in that country did not require any additional forces.
Individual augmentees throughout the year included one warrant officer who deployed to Skopje, Macedonia, in support of the Kosovo Force (KFOR); one staff sergeant who deployed to Bosnia in support of the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR); one lieutenant and 2 senior non-commissioned officers who all deployed to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, to provide information systems support to forces stabilizing that country.
When the 44th Signal Battalion's sister battalion, the 72nd Signal Battalion, and the 7th Signal Brigade were ordered to deploy to Iraq, personnel restructuring occurred in order to assure that 72nd was mission ready. Eighty-two of the 44th Signal Battalion's personnel were transferred to the 72nd Signal Battalion, including half of the Battalion's warrant officers, significant numbers of communications soldiers, and 90 percent of assigned mechanics not already deployed. The 44th Signal Battalion also played a major role in preparing and pushing 72nd Signal Battalion and 7th Signal Brigade out on their deployment and lent the 72nd Signal Battalion both personnel and equipment to ensure a successful deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In the spring of 2004, 44th Signal Battalion received the order to begin preparing for a possible deployment to Afghanistan for a year-long deployment rotation to Operation Enduring Freedom VI in support of CJTF-76 headed by Southern European Task Force (SETAF). By October 2004, the command had received official word that the deployment was a go and the Battalion was in full swing with personnel realignment, equipment reset and upgrades, and training.
The deployed force, known as Task Force Lightning, consisted of 275 personnel. A and B Companies were identified to deploy in whole, while C Company plus (Task Force Rock), had just returned from a yearlong deployment to Iraq in June 2004 and was identified as the stay-behind company to reconstitute and to handle any pop-up missions that would normally be tasked to the Battalion. Headquarters and Headquarters Company was divided up into a forward element and a Rear Detachment. The Battalion Commander, Battalion Command Sergeant Major, and the Staff deployed with an attached company commander and first sergeant from the 509th Signal Battalion. In addition, 30 military and civilian personnel from the 509th Signal Battalion were attached to Task Force Lightning. Later, during the deployment, Task Force Lightning would also have attached personnel from 82nd Signal Battalion, 7th Army Reserve Command, and augmentees from Joint Services Command including Air Force, Marines, and Navy personnel.
Task Force Lightning provided superior and unsurpassed tactical communications services in various forms to combined and joint forces throughout the Afghanistan theater and beyond. In support of SETAF Headquarters, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 44th Signal Battalion served as the network hub, based in Bagram, Afghanistan responsible for the operation of the Systems Control (SYSCON) and Master Reference Terminal (MRT), which controlled 27 tactical sites supporting battalion and brigade size elements in forward operating bases (FOBs).
A Company was established as the communications support for the Regional Command East, 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Infantry, and Task Force Devil based in FOB Salerno. B Company was based in Kandahar providing communications support to Regional Command South, 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade Task Force Bayonet.
Task Force Lightning provided mission essential tactical communications support via satellite based systems in the form of DSN phones, Video Teleconferencing, NIPR, SIPR, and Secure Voice over IP, in austere and dangerous remote sites to platoon, company, and battalion size elements with various types of missions. The unit utilized some of its organic Deployable Communications Packages-Tactical (DCP-T) and Single Shelter Switch (SSS) to provide tactical communications. However, they also had to fall in on equipment that they had never used before, namely the Base Band Node/Phoenix Tactical Satellite system (BBN/Phoenix), a new traffic terminal system (TT) and the Global Broadcast System (GBS). The 44th Signal Battalion not only mastered the operation of these new systems but vastly improved their operation efficiency, particularly the GBS, which was the means of receiving intelligence imagery and Predator feeds. The improvement of the GBS was directly responsible for saving uncounted human lives. The 44th Signal Battalion also became responsible for installing and providing the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS) network utilized by the Coalition forces at the tactical site in theater.
Prior to the 44th Signal Battalion taking over the tactical network in Afghanistan, the quality of service and success rate of communications in theater left much to be desired. Through their steadfast determination and unrelenting efforts, the 44th affected a 400 percent total bandwidth increase and an improvement to the success rate of communications from 70 percent to 97 percent. The 44th communications support played a huge role in the resounding success of the Afghanistan national elections in September 2005. DCP-Ts and TTs were utilized at main election headquarters throughout the country ensuring the safety and security of those headquarters.
Throughout all previous deployment rotations, there was no Unit Level Logistic System-Ground (ULLS-G) capability over the tactical network in Afghanistan. The 44th Signal Battalion was given the daunting task of solving this seemingly unsolvable problem. Within a matter of weeks, with great tenacity and determination, the Battalion was able to successfully implement the ULLS-G on the tactical network, vastly improving logistical operations and capabilities across the entire Afghanistan Theater.
During the Battalion's deployment, FOB Salerno saw unprecedented growth in terms of missions and personnel. All along, 44th Signal Battalion stretched its equipment resources and Soldiers to support the expansion and built a strong infrastructure for communication around the FOB. The Battalion developed a systematic plan of communication vaults to protect commercialized fiber optic lines, and installed shielded phone cables to provide data and voice quality of service comparable to bigger bases in theater.
Initially supporting the 25th Infantry Division, Regional Command West, in Heart, Afghanistan, the 44th Signal Battalion remained on site and continued to provide tactical communications support to Italian military units assigned to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). When political unrest forced the K2 Air Force base to be shut down, the 44th Signal Battalion dispatched a BBN/Phoenix team to provide critical command and control communications during the base closure.
Immediately after the devastating earthquake in Pakistan in October 2005, the 44th provided one TT and DCP-T to support the United States humanitarian aid mission. The DCP-T remained in Pakistan well after the redeployment providing communications support to the main medical effort, the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) out of Giebelstadt, Germany. In addition to the humanitarian aid mission to Pakistan, the 44th Signal Battalion also provided 6 personnel for the 30 personnel CJTF-76 force protection task force to Pakistan.
The 44th Signal Battalion was called upon to provide support for the Commander, CJTF-76 AM/FM Radio campaign, broadcasting news, music, and Coalition promotional messages to remote areas in an effort to win the hearts and minds of the citizenry. Immediate and positive results were realized from the program promoting goodwill between Coalition forces and the citizens of Afghanistan. Crucial intelligence information regarding insurgents, weapons caches, and narcotics activity were gained in response to the program.
Following its return from Afghanistan, the 44th Signal Battalion transitioned to a Joint Network Node equipped Expeditionary Signal Battalion on 16 November 2006.
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