BRAND NEW: Soldiers with the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade trained virtually on new equipment in April 2020 to ensure their readiness using multiband radios for current and future missions. (U.S. Army photo by 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade public affairs).
By Michael Mercurio and Kathryn Bailey
It was business as usual—until it wasn’t—for the Project Manager Tactical Radios’ (PM TR) fielding, installation and training team. With one month remaining in its assignment with Soldiers from the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Charged with completing the installation of multiple radio capabilities, including high-frequency radios, mounted leader radios and HMS Manpack Radios onto the brigade’s vehicle fleet, the team adjusted efforts by employing personal protective equipment to continue its mission amid the unit’s activities of recovering its personnel to begin isolation for COVID-19. The team maintained safe operations, on schedule, to ensure the brigade met its exercise and deployment plans.
As the pandemic persisted, the team adapted by quickly creating, testing and implementing a virtual new equipment training course for multiband radio operations as a substitute for in-person training. It launched the virtual new equipment training course with the brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, where it used collaboration software to broadcast from classrooms at Fort Hood to brigade Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The team continued to conduct virtual new equipment training from Fort Hood to Soldiers with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division (1/82 ABN) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. When travel restrictions relaxed, the team shifted to a combination training model with the 1/82 ABN while still adhering to social distancing protocol. The lead instructor conducted live classroom training to a small number of Soldiers and then broadcasted the training to additional smaller classrooms onsite, with assistant instructors positioned in the classes to facilitate the training.
When COVID-19 continued to impact new equipment training and integration schedules, and with critical missions scheduled for several security force assistance brigades, in-person training was the only viable option. Just before the pandemic, the Security Force Assistance Command scheduled a comprehensive communications capability vehicle integration event at Fort Benning, Georgia, for three such brigades. With special consideration from the U.S. Forces Command, the event proceeded.
Donning personal protective equipment, maintaining distancing to the extent practicable and segregating equipment into individual tool kits to minimize sharing, the team upgraded power, mission command and tactical radio equipment for the 1st, 2nd and 54th Security Force Assistance Brigades’ M1151 Humvees.
PM TR continues to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic by employing virtual new equipment training and in-person installation training adjusted for safety to ensure Army units can quickly deploy with the modern communications equipment critical to their missions.