The 898th Brigade Engineer Battalion of the Washington National Guard’s (NG) Charlie Company has carried out its first tactical air movement radio retransmissions exercise.

The exercise was held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, according to Joseph Siemandel, Joint Force Headquarters – Washington National Guard.

The unit partnered with the 1st Battalion and 168th General Support Aviation for the drill.

The first-of-its-kind training helped signal professionals from the NG unit practise retransmission between radios.

According to the unit, keeping the communication lines open and accessible keeps national guard members in touch with critical mission information and allows them to complete their tasks.

During the drill, soldiers set up long-range, mobile antenna systems on Joint Base Lewis-McChord and made use of two Humvees and two CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

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The communication Humvees were sling-loaded and moved to strategic battlefield locations by helicopters, which were crewed by the 1st Battalion and 168th General Support Aviation Regiment, to retransmit signals.

Charlie Company commander captain Laudy Choum said: “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.

“Through retransmission, we are able to extend the capabilities outside (the) line of sight.

“(For) domestic operations like fires and floods, sometimes we cannot get a vehicle to an area by road, so (by) training on air movement, we are testing a critical function.”

In August 2020, professionals from the Washington Emergency Management Division began using Starlink user terminals to provide internet service to areas affected by wildfires.

In October last year, four Washington Air National Guard members were activated to Camp Blanding, Florida, to support the response following Hurricane Ian.

They shared their expertise in integrating a Starlink system into a Joint Incident Site Communications Capability.