PRICE BARRACKS, Belize –
Two Soldiers from the Kentucky National Guard’s Directorate of Information Management (DOIM) traveled to Belize to support U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)-sponsored Operation Tradewinds 2022 in May, 2022.
Maj. Stephen Young, the J6 plans and policy officer for DOIM and Staff Sgt. Brian Bingham, the mission command (MC) spectrum manager, conducted many forms of planning, resourcing and installing communications for Combat Net Radios (CNR), AN/PRC-150s (base-station, man-pack and antennae radios), satellite messaging handhelds and satellite phones for use at multiple locations in Belize and Mexico.
Under Col. John Blackburn, director of information management for Kentucky National Guard, support and approval, Young and Bingham were connected to SOUTHCOM’s communications team and given the tools they needed to complete the mission.
One of Bingham’s most notable achievements was the completion of two High-Frequency connections. One stretching more than 30 miles that was installed, operated and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) in Dive Haven, Belize.
The other more than 220 miles installed, operated and maintained by Secretaría de Marina (SEMAR) in Mexico.
This allowed the Maritime Component Commander a tactical means to communicate with their two Forward Maritime Operation Centers, and further allowed their staff to incorporate their respective war-fighting functions into Tradewinds 22.
The two-person team did not work with only the USCG and SEMAR, but the Belize Defence Force (BDF) and the Belize Coast Guard (BCG) were also very important players in setting up communications. Both Belizean forces worked hard to help deliver the needed the equipment to each location.
“It has been eye opening experience to work with partner nations,” said Bingham. “Especially while trying to perform de-confliction of the electromagnetic spectrum and troubleshoot radio frequency communications.
“While the end goals are the same for all parties involved are methods of accomplishing the task can differ quite a bit.
“Overcoming these hurdles prove we do things better together than we do separately. All of this could not have happened without pre-coordination months ahead of time with SOUTHCOM.”
SOUTHCOM has sponsored this Caribbean-focused exercise annually since 1984 and is a combined, joint effort with over 1900 personnel invited to attend from 22 different countries.
Young and Bingham have worked for the past few months with SOUTHCOM to make communications the best in the almost 40-year history.
Months prior to traveling to Belize, Young attended the Main Planning Conference (MPC) and was the senior signal officer on-ground and planned the Combat Net Radio Net Diagrams and established the Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency (PACE) planning for the exercise.
Part of the plan included gaining valuable contacts for both Belize and Mexico, along with U.S. participants, to further solidify planning between the MPC and the Final Planning Conference (FPC).
Meanwhile, Bingham used Young’s plans to begin resourcing the equipment needed for the mission.
Chief Warrant Officer David Barker, MC branch chief for the Kentucky National Guard, helped and supported Bingham in getting everything they needed for the mission.
Without Barker’s support, Young and Bingham would not have been successful.
Young attended the FPC and helped address communications problems from prior years. He developed new plans to fix those deficits.
Young created the exercise communications plan to ensure joint and multi-national communications for 1,900 participants from all U.S. services and the over 20 nations invited to participate in two different countries on air, sea and land.
Young was awarded with a challenge coin from the SOUTHCOM DOIM to thank him for his efforts in planning the exercise communications plan.
“Having the ability to work, and indirectly manage/supervise troops from our host nation further cements the notion of one-team/one-fight,” said Young.
“All soldiers, whether Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or our counterparts in the host or partner nations want to share information, learn from each other and succeed within our skillsets.”
Within a few days of the exercise start, Young and Bingham’s plan and work had begun to pay off.
During the exercise, all participating units could use both lower and upper tactical internet to talk to any and all of the component commands in accordance with the PACE at over 90 percent operational rate.
Young commented on the gravity of the mission:
“The scope of our communications and electronics mission within Tradewinds 22, and its structure and equipment across all components, coupled with host and partner nations, and all their specific requirements and needs is an experience that has garnered lessons-learned for follow-on signal officers and Soldiers in Kentucky to become better suited for ‘bigger pictures’ than the brigade battalion levels that are common across our Kentucky National Guard.”