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III Corps Exercises

Beginning with the U.S. Forces Korea combined exercise Ulchi Focus Lens and culminating with III Corps' and 4th Infantry Division's warfighter exercise, III Mobile Armored Corps tackled the largest and longest (five months) series of corps-level exercises in recent memory during 2000.

Dubbed Phantom 2000, the exercise series served as a launching pad for digital communications and information systems planning and support as III Corps continued its transition to become the Army's first digitized corps.

UFL (Phantom Focus) - which involved the first-time deployment of the newly upgraded III Corps tactical command post to the Republic of Korea - was followed by 13th Corps Support Command's field-training exercise Phantom Lifeline and III Corps' FTX Phantom Runner. Then came III Corps' CPX Phantom Destroyer and the III Corps/4th Infantry Division warfighter (Phantom Fighter) exercise.

While certainly challenging all the corps' Signal assets, 3d Signal Brigade (consisting of 16th, 57th and 1114th Signal Battalions) - along with 13th and 124th Signal Battalions - rose to the challenge by providing exceptional CIS support to the war fighter.

Phantom Focus required communications support for the corps covering halfway around the world. The brigade - using mobile-subscriber equipment in-theater and at Fort Hood, in-country commercial circuits and leased T1 circuits for reachback connectivity - established a network consisting of four node centers, one Modular Transportable Communications System, one large extension node, 13 small extension nodes and two super-high-frequency tactical-satellite terminals. This communications network linked into the theater network 1st Signal Brigade installed. The network supported Army Tactical Command and Control System and Global Command and Control Systems-Korea to III Corps' TAC CP in Korea and III Corps' main CP at Fort Hood to provide the warfighter with the theater's common operating picture. A videoteleconferencing network was established which included the commander in chief's CP, III Corps' TAC and main CPs, 2d Infantry Division's TAC CP in Korea and 101st Airborne Division's TAC CP at Fort Campbell, Ky. Other units involved in the exercise included 3d Armored Calvary Regiment and 25th Infantry Division.

Although the III Corps commander was forward-deployed, the brigade requirement for reliable command and control of the network within the continental United States remained. It was imperative that the brigade managed all Signal assets, including VTC, from the brigade systems control at Fort Hood. Through the collective support and teamwork of all units involved, the brigade was successful with providing the corps commander, his staff and task-force commanders with flexible and reliable C2 communications.

The next exercise in the series, Phantom Lifeline, was 13th COSCOM's annual deployment exercise designed to test the unit's ability to deploy the corps' assets via air, rail and sea. Elements of 57th Signal Battalion deployed with COSCOM units to the Fort Hood airfield, to rail outload facilities and to COSCOM's logistical-support area at Camp Bullis, Texas, as well as to the ports of Beaumont and Corpus Christi in southern Texas, to provide communications support.

The exercise involved more than 4,700 soldiers, 1,500 vehicles and associated equipment, and 600 miles of road convoy. The 57th Signal Battalion established an extensive MSE network at Camp Bullis, located 120 miles south of Fort Hood, to support COSCOM's LSA. The battalion also used tropospheric scatter from 313th Signal Company to extend the network back to the Fort Hood sustaining base.

The Camp Bullis MSE network was eventually integrated into the Phantom Runner network when both these exercises overlapped. Once Phantom Lifeline concluded, 57th Signal Battalion's elements redeployed to Fort Hood, where they linked up with 3d Signal Brigade and participated in the corps river-crossing exercise.

The III Corps FTX Phantom Runner involved the movement of all corps and major subordinate command CPs from tactical-assembly areas located at Camp Bowie in northwest Texas to attack positions on Fort Hood. Unlike simulation-driven exercises, Phantom Runner provided units with the opportunity to conduct actual movements and river-crossing operations. All three corps CPs - as well as 1st Cavalry Division's TAC, main and rear CPs; 4th Infantry Division's TAC CP; and 13th COSCOM, 31st Air Defense Artillery, 89th Military Police Brigade, 64th Corps Support Group, 3d Signal Brigade, 13th Signal Battalion and 124th Signal Battalion - moved in various directions from northern, central and southern Texas to conduct the river-crossing operation on Fort Hood's Belton Lake.

Significant geographical separation and several variations of legacy and new Signal equipment were two major challenges 3d Signal Brigade encountered. The exercise involved extensive use of single-channel TACSAT and Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System FM communications, tropo, MSE remote-access units and ground-mobile-forces SHF satellite. The exercise represented the first time legacy MSE and asynchronous-transfer-mode-enhanced MSE were fully integrated into a corps network. The Phantom Runner network included assets from all five corps Signal battalions and involved 27 major signal-assemblage displacements, which kept the brigade's systems control busy reconfiguring the network with MSE-channel reassignments to ensure reliable data and videoteleconferencing paths.

In all, the network - spread out over several hundred square miles - consisted of 17 NCs, three LENs and 39 SENs - interconnected via SHF satellite, tropo and T1 leased commercial circuits. The exercise deployed 1,054 Signal soldiers and 486 prime movers and associated equipment. The brigade SYSCON's No. 1 priority was maintaining reliable connectivity for the corps commander's VTC battle-update brief sessions. VTC was also used extensively as a collaborative-planning tool for all stages of the battle. Using the new integrated-systems control mitigated many of the technical network-management and control issues.

After the river-crossing exercise ended, Corps assets quickly transitioned to support Phantom Destroyer, the next exercise in the series. Phantom Destroyer, a III Corps CPX, served as the warfighter ramp-up exercise for III Corps and 4th Infantry Division. One of the primary training objectives the corps commander established for the exercise was displacement of every corps and major subordinate CP at least once during the exercise.

After an extensive simulation exercise to test router, simulation Army Battle-Command System and tactical local-area network system computers, the corps executed a Battle Command Training Program-controlled warfighter ramp-up. The operation's success was attributed to the rigorous SIMEX, since more than 800 automation systems and user terminals were used in the exercise.

Major participants in this exercise were the III Corps TAC, main and rear CPs; 4th Infantry Division TAC and main CPs; 1st and 3d brigade combat teams from 4th Infantry Division; and 1st Cavalry Division's main CPs. Other units deployed to Fort Hood and operated response cells from the Battle Simulation Center. Among these were 6th Cavalry Brigade and Third Republic of Korea Army from Korea; 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Carson, Colo.; and 172d Separate Infantry Brigade from Alaska.

Close coordination between G-6 and S-6 staffs proved crucial in ensuring automation and switching databases were aligned to support the multi-unit exercise structure. The greatest Signal challenge facing the brigade during Phantom Destroyer was maintaining effective and reliable C2 communications during the ambitious CP displacement timeline. The Signal brigade and all corps Signal battalion SYSCONs remained extremely busy managing and reconfiguring the network to ensure continuous tactical communications, including VTC. Three main VTC multipoint control units were used to integrate 11 VTC sites. In all, 57th and 16th Signal Battalions, along with 124th and 13th Signal Battalions, integrated a network of 11 NCs, 41 SENs, four LENs and five SHF multichannel satellite terminals, as well as 340 ATCCS Version 4.3 and 180 ATTCS Version 6.1 terminal devices.

The last exercise in the five-month series was Phantom Fighter, 4th Infantry Division's warfighter exercise. Signal assets from both 124th Signal Battalion and 3d Signal Brigade were required to support response cells in Fort Hood's Battle Simulation Center as well as III Corps and 4th Infantry Division CPs in the field. The network required seven NCs, three LENs and 33 SENs. The 4th Infantry Division displaced all division and BCT CPs at least once during the exercise, requiring Signaleers to quickly re-establish voice, data and VTC links. Also, 4th Infantry Division successfully used both serial and Internet protocol-based battlefield VTC - a first - throughout the exercise. Overall, it was a very successful warfighter exercise for 4th Infantry Division.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:23:56 Zulu