Washington Signal Company Completes Radio Retrans Exercise > National Guard > Guard News

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Whether on the battlefield during a federal deployment or responding to a disaster at home, being able to communicate is critical for National Guard members and first responders. 

Without communications, commanders do not know the status of their members, how the mission is going, and what they need to complete the tasks.

During February drill, the signal professionals from Charlie Company, 898th Brigade Engineer Battalion, Washington National Guard, put a new spin on this essential task. Working with 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation, the unit conducted its first tactical air movement radio retransmissions exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“After a year of planning and working with our aviation partners, we were able to conduct airlift of two of our vehicles, move them to different locations and conduct radio retransmissions,” said Capt. Laudy Choum, commander of Charlie Company.

Radio signals have limited reach, depending on the antenna’s size and the device’s strength. Through retransmission, two connected radios provide automatic retransmission of signals between two other radios that are too far apart to communicate directly with each other. 

With radios spread across multiple training areas, Soldiers sling-loaded two communication Humvees under two CH-47 Chinook helicopters to retransmit signals further.

“Through retransmission, we are able to extend the capabilities outside of line of sight,” said Choum. “Domestic operations like fires and floods, sometimes we cannot get a vehicle to an area by road, so training on air movement we are testing a critical function. It was one of the coolest things I have done in my career.”

There has been much work to improve communications and internet capabilities during disasters. In August 2020, Washington Emergency Management Division professionals began using Starlink user terminals to provide internet service to areas devastated by wildfires. In October 2022, four Washington Air National Guard members were activated to Camp Blanding, Florida, to support the response following Hurricane Ian, sharing their expertise with integrating a Starlink system into a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability.

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