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86th Signal Battalion

The mission of the 86th Signal Battalion is to deploy worldwide in response to Joint Staff, Department of the Army, and Army Signal Command requirements to include: Install satellite communications to support DCS extensions into the objective area, provide rapid deployment communications for Army forces (ARFOR) component of a Joint Task Force (JTF), and provide quick reaction, limited command post facilities for headquarters deployed worldwide on a contingency basis in an austere environment.

The 86th Signal Battalion currently consists of a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, four line companies, and the Army's only Power Projection Signal Company, the 269th.

In April 1998 the 269th Signal Company of Fort Huachuca, Ariz., fielded a newly developed satellite system, giving the Army a more efficient communications network at Camp Doha in Kuwait. The system is an AN/TSC-143 Triband, which comprises voice and Internet communications. It was first fielded in 1993, and is one of six prototypes of a currently planned system for the Army. At its maximum capability, the triband can service 300 customers with a network of phone lines. The job that once required two 5-ton and four 2 1/2-ton vehicles, only uses three HMMWVs with the triband system. It provides a lot of power in a small amount of space. "It is capable of maintaining three different types of satellites, an X-band, which the military uses, a commercial band, which is an older civilian satellite system, and KU-band, which is the new civilian satellite system. Until now, military communication systems only used military satellites to transmit information, Chapman explained. The triband can use a civilian satellite to free up space on military satellites. The system combines a switch and a satellite, which requires a team of one switch operator and one satellite system operator to maintain the equipment.

The 86th Signal Battalion was constituted 23 March 1966 as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 86th Signal Battalion, and activated 1 June 1966 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Two months later, it deployed to Vietnam, on 16 August 1966. The battalion was originally located within the Cu Chi base camp, home of the 25th Infantry Division. It supported the Army Area Communications System in the western portion of the III Corps Tactical Zone. The battalion was inactivated in Vietnam 30 April 1971.

The unit remained inactive until 1977. At that time, the 11th Signal Group was established to support worldwide contingencies. Under then current organization, the Group Commander maintained control of the 40th Signal Battalion, three separate signal companies, and one signal maintenance support detachment. During normal field operations, the group staff was able to task organize the units to accomplish the mission. However, it was a time-consuming, day-to-day operation that taxed the group staff.

The 86th Signal Battalion was formed, in part, to relieve the group staff of that responsibility. The battalion was activated 1 July 1977, at its current home at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

In August, 1990, the battalion deployed, as part of the brigade, to support operations in Southwest Asia. The 86th, along with other brigade units, installed, operated, and maintained the largest Echelons-Above-Corps communications network ever established during that conflict.

On 28 June 1993, elements of the battalion deployed to Somalia in support of Operation Restore Hope. 86th Signal Battalion soldiers remained in Somalia until January of 1994.

Soldiers from the 86th deployed to Haiti in September 1994 in support of Operation Uphold Democracy. While there, they provided tactical satellite support to U.S. forces. The last 86th soldiers returned in March 1995.

Soldiers of the 86th have served as individual augmentations to operations Joint Endeavor and Joint Guard in Bosnia Herzegovina, Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in Saudi Arabia, and the Patriot Missile mission Morning Calm in Korea. The battalion also sent one officer to EUCOM Headquarters in Belgium, to fill a critical shortage.

In February 1998, approximately 180 soldiers from the 86th Signal Battalion deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Desert Thunder. The battalion (-) element was led by LTC Gene Tyler and lasted for over 5 months. The final soldier, SPC Christopher Hargrove, returned via ship on 4 August 1998.

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