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54th Signal Battalion
Voice of the Desert

The 54th Signal Battalion maintains a combat-ready, forward-deployed Signal battalion to install, operate and maintain strategic, sustaining base and limited theater tactical communications capable of providing command, control, communications and computers (C4) support to deployed U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) forces, U.S. Military Training Mission (USMTM) and coalition allies in Southwest Asia. The battalion is organized around three companies, with two located in Saudi Arabia and one in Kuwait.

The "Arabian Knights" of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment [HHD] is located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia at Eskan Village. The detachment provides command and control to Battalion elements and coordinates locally with the 335th Theater Signal Command (Forward) Theater Network Operations Center (TNOC), the Defense Information Systems Agency Regional Operations Support Center (DISA-ROSC), the U.S. Army Signal Command at Ft. Huachuca, ARCENT G-6 at Ft. McPherson, and the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) at MacDill AFB. The detachment also has a Director of Information Management located in Qatar (DOIM-Q). It provides communication support for ARCENT-Q, Army Material Command (AMC) and Military Transport and Mobility Command (MTMC). DOIM-Q installs, operates, and maintains telephone communications and billing, local area networks, and network/automation equipment.

The 385th Signal Company "Desert Gladiators" is forward deployed at Camp Doha, Kuwait where it provides entry into the Defense Communications Systems and limited theater-tactical communications in support of ARCENT-K Ministry of Defense and Intrinsic Action exercises. It is also the repository for the Joint Chief's of Staff controlled, forward deployed, Tactical Contingency Communications Equipment (TCCE) in the USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility (AOR). These forward deployed communications assets are designed to quickly respond to CENTCOM C4I requirements. The Director of Information Management, Kuwait (DOIM-K) is co-located with the 385th and provides sustaining base communications in support of combat and contingency operations.

The 550th Signal Company is located in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia at King Abdul Aziz Air Base. The 550th provides strategic communications entry for forward based U.S. forces in Dhahran to include U.S. and coalition combat forces. The company has rapid expansion capabilities for contingency and port operations.

The 54th Signal Battalion METL includes: Prepare equipment and soldiers for deployment and deploy the Battalion. Facilitate the integration of follow-on signal assets into a theater C4 infrastructure. Provide Command and Control. IOM and restore tactical C4 systems in support of USCENTCOM. O&M and restore base C4 systems in support of USCENTCOM. Relocate a strategic or tactical node. Sustain operations in a hostile environment. Protect the force. Redeploy the Battalion.

The vast, trackless desert that makes up much of the Middle East creates outposts of even the most modern cities. This isolation during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait intensified the thinning of American information lifelines that would keep soldiers and leaders linked to their support bases in the United States and Europe.

That's why the 54th Signal Battalion, an Army Signal Command echelons-above corps unit is now in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Prior to March 1991, the task of providing communications support to troops in the region was performed by members of the Information Systems Command-Saudi Arabia. Before Desert Storm, there was a detachment of mostly tactical communicators. These signal forces provided the initial communications in the region when the 82nd Airborne Division's soldiers first hit the ground following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The unit is much larger and numbered 235 soldiers as of late 1997. As the battalion's strength and scope have grown, so has its mission.

Today, that mission is to maintain a combat-ready, forward deployed signal battalion to install, operate and maintain strategic, sustaining base and limited theater-tactical communications capable of providing C4I support to a wide array of deployed U.S. and coalition forces in the region. These forces are in this important region to help connect soldiers to their elements at higher headquarters. These units perform much of the same work as their counterparts in other parts of the world. The big difference, is that they do so in a vastly different culture, under highly unique operational conditions.

Because of security concerns, the soldiers can't leave the compound and simply go shopping downtown like soldiers in other units can do. Just to cross the Kuwait border is a five-step process. Those security interests have made it necessary for the battalion to move a significant slice of the defense information infrastructure to more secure locales, while maintaining support for a long list of customers.

These customers include Army Central Command in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the U.S. Military Training Mission, the Joint Task Force-Southwest Asia, all deployed U.S. forces and coalition forces in the region.

The unit in Kuwait supports such on-going military operations as Intrinsic Action, designed to enforce the no-fly zones over Iraq that grew out of the 1991 war. To do this, the unit keeps Tri-Service communications equipment operational while maintaining messaging capability throughout their area of operations.

Meanwhile, their sister units in Saudi Arabia maintain a Defense Satellite Communications System earth terminal that links the region to the rest of the global command and control system.

The soldiers understand that they have the unique mission of being the information lifeline for all forces in the region and they take their jobs seriously. In fact, despite the lack of alcohol and the strict conditions under which the soldiers live, they seem to really like the duty.

The battalion maintains three telecommunications centers, operates the Theater Facility Control Office, two tech control facilities and one patch and test facilities, five defense switch network telephone systems, three defense data network gateways and two communications security accounts.

All of this against the backdrop of the ebb and flow of tensions throughout Southwest Asia. Such tensions lead to strict security measures and make the services the 54th provides that much more critical. Critical in this process has been the unit's pivotal role in relocating much of the defense information infrastructure twice, in the wake of the June 1996 truck bombing at Khobar Towers.

According to eye witness accounts, the communicators with the battalion provided the only electronic mail connectivity out of the complex for several days following the bombing. Later, after U.S. and other officials determined that personnel and operations would be moved to more secure areas, the 54th played a pivotal role in determining how to move complicated equipment, then making the move, first to an interim site, then to more permanent facilities elsewhere in Saudi Arabia. This action, a part of joint service Operation Desert Focus, was done in concert with several defense agencies in the region.

As part of the Army Signal Command's commitment to the present, while focusing on the future the command and the 54th Signal Battalion defined how they will work with the information systems they have, while preparing for conversion to the Defense Message System. The 54th Signal Battalion provided validated peacetime messaging requirements to the ARCENT G-6. In turn, the ARCENT G-6 has projected the messaging requirements associated with an escalation of troops requiring DMS messaging support from the 335th Theater Army Signal Command and the 54th,

On 18 October 1927, The United States Army constituted a unit that has become known as the 54th Signal Battalion that would not die. Authorized to form in 1928, the 54th Signal Battalion was not activated until February 10, 1941 at Fort Ord, California. Actively participating in World War II, the 54th earned Battle Streamers for the Ardennes, Alsace, and Central European Campaigns. In 1945, the battalion was inactivated for the first time. The 54th Signal Battalion was reactivated at Fort Hood, Texas in 1962 and shortly thereafter deployed to the Republic of Vietnam. Over the next nine years, the 54th earned 13 Battle Streamers, three Meritorious Unit commendations, and the Republic of Vietnam Cross for Gallantry with Palm. Its duty done, the 54th Signal Battalion again folded its colors in 1971 at Fort Lewis, Washington.

In June 1980, the 54th Signal Battalion was activated for a third time and assigned to Fort Hood, Texas in support of the Third U.S. Army Corps. The soldiers of the 54th Signal Battalion served with distinction for another 9 years until the battalion once again retired its colors in April 1989.

On 1 March 1991, in the wake of Operation Desert Storm, the 54th Signal Battalion was activated to provide state-of-the-art communications support to the Southwest Asia Theater. The soldiers of the 54th Signal Battalion assumed a role previously performed by an Army unit known as Information Systems Command - Central Area. ISC - Central area was a signal detachment whose roots can be traced back to 1952 when they provided communications support to the United States Army Corps of Engineers in Riyadh and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The crisis in the gulf changed everything. This small signal detachment was called up to support a theater at war. ISC - Central Area greatly expanded its communications capabilities to provide regional communications support to CINC USCENTCOM. In the process, the detachment became the 54th Signal Battalion.

After the war, the 54th Signal Battalion consisted of a Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, the 550th Signal Company in Dhahran, and the 580th Signal Company in Riyadh. In 1994, the United States Army Information Systems Command (USAISC) placed the 385th Signal Company and DOIM - Kuwait under operational control of the 54th Signal Battalion. The 385th Signal Company was then assigned to the 54th Signal Battalion in January of 1995. This expanded the 54th Signal Battalion's theater responsibilities so that the battalion now provides both fixed and tactical communications support to USARCENT-K in Kuwait. Effective 1 July 1995, the 54th Signal Battalion was aligned under USARCENT-SA. In 1997, the DOIM in support of ARCENT Qatar was formed and it too was assigned to the 54th Signal Battalion. On 16 June 1998, with the passing of the colors, the 54th Signal Battalion was realigned under 11th Signal Brigade.



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